Partial Victory in Assisted Suicide Lawsuit

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Life Legal attorneys, led by Katie Short, appeared in court this morning to argue for a preliminary injunction that would block implementation of California’s assisted suicide law.

The following issues were ruled on by Judge Daniel A. Ottolia at this morning’s hearing:

“Standing”: VICTORY! The judge held that our plaintiffs, six physicians and a nationwide medical group comprised of thousands of doctors, have “standing” to sue on behalf of their patients. Standing is the capacity of a party to bring a lawsuit. At the heart of standing “is the requirement that plaintiffs have sustained or will sustain direct injury or harm and that this harm is redressable” (Wex Legal Dictionary, Cornell University of Law). Without standing, a lawsuit cannot proceed, so Life Legal overcame a major hurdle today!

“Ripeness”: VICTORY! A claim is not “ripe” if it rests upon hypothetical or future events. Courts must adjudicate actual harms, not abstract ones. The judge held today that the case is ripe, which means he acknowledged that people could actually be harmed under the End of Life Option Act.

Preliminary Injunction: Life Legal sought to have the assisted suicide law “enjoined,” or suspended. Unfortunately, the judge denied our motion. He was unclear as to the substantive reasons behind his decision, but said the state should be able to facilitate the “right” of terminally ill individuals to commit suicide.

Life Legal has obtained a death certificate from one of the first deaths by lethal prescription which shows that that the doctor who prescribed the drugs had only known the patient for three weeks. One of our many concerns about the law is that it will create popup clinics that only exist to help people kill themselves. It seems this is has already happened.

Our next court appearance will be on December 5. Please pray, as the End of Life Option Act is a dangerous law that has already resulted in loss of life.

Our fight against California’s assisted suicide law is just beginning, and it will be expensive. Already Compassion and Choices, the Soros-funded assisted suicide organization that choreographed Brittany Maynard’s very public suicide, has joined forces with the state to defend the law.

You can be part of this history-making and life-saving lawsuit by making a donation to Life Legal today!

Life Legal Fights Legalized Killing

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Last week, Life Legal had the opportunity to meet three heroes in the fight against the legalization of assisted suicide: 30-year-old former U.S. Marine JJ Hanson, his wife Kristen Hanson, and Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, a psychiatrist with the University of California at Irvine’s Neuropsychiatric Center.

In 2014, both Brittany Maynard and JJ Hanson were diagnosed with the same form of aggressive brain cancer. Like Maynard, Hanson was told he only had a few months to live.

While Brittany chose to spend her remaining days looking for a doctor who could end her life, JJ sought a doctor willing to provide treatment—and found one. He underwent an extremely risky surgery to remove the tumors. While the procedure itself went well, JJ suffered complication that nearly ended his life. He endured chemotherapy, radiation, and a new experimental therapy.

During those dark days, JJ became clinically depressed and questioned whether he wanted to go on living. He now realizes how vulnerable patients are as they are wrestling with a devastating diagnosis—and how easy it would have been to give up, had “aid-in-dying” drugs been available to him.

Two years later, JJ’s cancer is in remission. JJ and Kristen are now working to oppose assisted suicide laws in New York.

Dr. Aaron Kheriaty is a declarant in Life Legal’s lawsuit against California’s “End of Life Option Act.” He has been an active opponent of assisted suicide laws across the nation. As a psychiatrist, Dr. Kheriaty has researched the links between serious illness, depression, and suicide and found that 80-90% of all suicides are associated with depression or other treatable mental disorders. California’s End of Life Option Act does not require patients to undergo a psychiatric evaluation prior to obtaining a lethal prescription. Dr. Kheriaty believes this lack of evaluation constitutes medical negligence.

“The law is a teacher: Laws shape the ethos of a culture by affecting cultural attitudes toward certain behaviors and influencing moral norms. Laws permitting physician-assisted suicide send a message that, under especially difficult circumstances, some lives are not worth living.” —Dr. Aaron Kheriaty

LAWSUIT UPDATE: State Attorney General Kamala Harris has now intervened and will submit her reply to the lawsuit this week.

Please consider making a donation today to help Life Legal fight California’s assisted suicide law and to send the message that life is worth protecting.

Life Legal Files Lawsuit to Stop Assisted Suicide Law

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The Life Legal Defense Foundation filed a lawsuit today challenging California’s physician-assisted suicide law, the “End of Life Option Act.” The lawsuit was filed in the California Superior Court in Riverside County.

The civil rights lawsuit alleges Equal Protection violations of individuals labeled terminally ill and was filed by five physicians in southern California and by the American Academy of Medical Ethics (AAME), which represents more than 600 California doctors and over 2 million patients. AAME has 15,000 physician members nationwide. The individual physicians include two oncologists, a neurologist, as well as palliative care and hospice physicians, all seeking to protect the rights of their patients.

The Act decriminalizes physician-assisted suicide and instantly removes criminal law, elder abuse, and mental-health legal protections from any individual deemed terminally ill, despite the inherent uncertainty and frequently inaccurate nature of such a prognosis.  In contrast, all non-terminally ill Californians enjoy Penal Code § 401 protection, which makes it a felony to aid, advise, or encourage another to commit suicide. They also enjoy other legal protections against suicide, including being placed on 72-hour (to 30-day) mental-health holds to protect them from self harm.

California’s assisted suicide law does not require labeled individuals seeking a lethal prescription to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, so patients with untreated depression and suicidal ideation can be prescribed lethal drugs. A large body of psychiatric research has demonstrated that 80-90% of all suicides are associated with depression or other treatable mental disorders. The California Department of Public Health Care Services assumes that only two percent of Medi-Cal patients likely to request the lethal drugs will be referred for psychiatric counseling and set the state budget accordingly.

“We are asking the court to uphold civil and criminal laws that should apply equally to all Californians, including laws that protect people from self-harm and elder abuse laws. The End of Life Option Act is irreparably flawed as it removes crucial protections from individuals who are most susceptible to depression, abuse, and coercion,” said Alexandra Snyder, Executive Director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation. “The Act provides virtually no safeguards for labeled individuals who may suffer from untreated mental illness or mood disorders and grants full immunity for doctors to participate in the killing of their most vulnerable patients.”

The End of Life Option Act also incentivizes the creation of Kevorkian-like suicide pipelines. Doctors who prescribe the drugs do not have to have a prior relationship with patients and are thus free to prey on vulnerable patients—including those who are mentally ill—as they would be immune from nearly all civil and criminal liability under the Act.

Under the Act, “terminal illness” includes any condition that, if left untreated, would cause death within six months. This encompasses many types of illnesses—even those that can be successfully treated—if the patient decides to forego treatment. Moreover, predicting life expectancy is crude and fraught with subjective judgment.  Physicians’ predictions for life-expectancy are frequently wrong.

To read the complaint, click here: End of Life Option Act Conformed Complaint

 

5 Problems with the End of Life Option Act

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  1. California’s End of Life Option Act does not require a psychological evaluation prior to receiving a prescription for aid-in-dying drugs. This lack of basic psychological evaluation and treatment constitutes medical negligence.
  2. The Act puts vulnerable individuals at risk. We can’t ignore the economic factors at work in medicine. For example, patients in Oregon have been refused life-extending chemotherapy by their insurance companies, who instead opt to pay for aid-in-dying drugs. There are forces at work that will pressure individuals and narrow their options, rather than expand their range of options.
  3. The Act communicates the message that under especially difficult circumstances, some lives are not worth living. This message will be heard by not only those with a terminal illness but also any person struggling with the temptation to end his or her life.
  4. The Act abandons vulnerable patients to lethal drugs. To abandon suicidal individuals in the midst of a crisis under the guise of respecting their autonomy is socially irresponsible. It undermines sound medical ethics and erodes social solidarity.
  5. The Act will undermine the ability of patients to get adequate medical care. Patients with a terminal illness are exquisitely vulnerable to any suggestion from their physicians, their health care team, and their insurers that they are becoming too expensive to care for, or too burdensome.