Monumental Case Challenges California’s Physician-Assisted Suicide Law

In April of 2023 a group of nonprofits that work for disability and patients’ rights as well as individuals with disabilities filed a lawsuit in a federal district court, asking the court to declare California’s physician assisted suicide law unlawful and unconstitutional. 

California’s physician-assisted suicide law is called the End of Life Option Acts (EOLOA) and was passed in 2021. This law permits physicians to prescribe a lethal drug to a suicidal patient. Through this program, death by physician-assisted suicide can occur as early as 48 hours from the initial request. The EOLOA also forces doctors with professional or ethical objections to participate in the process. Alarmingly, EOLOA is not regulated by any California agency, leaving many vulnerable patients at risk. 

The lawsuit was filed against the governor of California, state officials and agencies, and others. The suit specifically asks the court to stop the enforcement of the law based on four critical reasons. 

The suit claims that the EOLOA violates both the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law, and Sec. 504 of California’s Rehabilitation Act. These laws prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in various aspects of life. Under these acts individuals facing life-threatening conditions qualify as people with disabilities. The EOLOA treats “people with life-threatening disabilities differently than less and non-disabled people when it comes to expressions of suicidality and supplying appropriate mental health and medical care.” 

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The suit argues that the court should rule EOLOA unconstitutional because it violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection and Due Process Clause.

The EOLOA treats people with terminal illnesses differently than others who express a wish to die. The law also fails to include safeguards to ensure that “a judgment-impaired, or unduly influenced person does not receive and/or ingest lethal physician-assisted suicide drugs without adequate due process in waiving their fundamental right to live.”

The case is currently still in the United States District Court for the Central District of California with Judge Fernando Aenlle-Rocha presiding over the case. If Judge Aenlle-Rocha rules against the plaintiffs that the EOLOA does not violate patients rights and is not unconstitutional, the plaintiffs can file an appeal. 

This monumental case has the potential to stop the enforcement of this radical law.

The physician-assisted suicide movement has progressed rapidly–especially in the U.S. and Canada–and the EOLOA is one link in a chain of alarming and destructive policymaking.

While the injustice of assisted suicide is thus far outlawed in Texas, the Pro-Life community recognizes that all human persons have value inside of the womb and out and must be protected. 

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