A San Diego judge tentatively ruled Friday that a state law prohibiting assisted suicides is constitutional, marking the end of a lawsuit filed by three terminally ill cancer patients who want to utilize the option of medical aid to end their suffering.
Pollack said appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court have made a distinction between “letting a person die and making a person die.”
“You can’t do that (make a person die) in California,” the judge said.
Pollack noted that under the law, doctors can be prosecuted for taking action in an assisted suicide.
“You can’t actually make the person die,” the judge noted.
Pollack told the plaintiffs that they had legitimate concerns and urged them to lobby state legislators to make changes in the law.
Attorney John Kappos said his clients are in grave condition and can’t wait for the law to be changed.
Kappos said doctors are nervous about even talking to patients about assisted suicide.
“Their speech is being chilled by this statute,” Kappos said.
He told the judge that his clients ought to have the right to control their own destiny.
Julie Trinh, representing the Attorney General’s Office, said the plaintiffs were trying to carve out a special exemption to the statute.
“No one has the right to assisted suicide in California,” Trinh told the judge.
Pollack said he will issue a written ruling, probably on Monday. The plaintiffs are expected to appeal.
Christy O’Donnell, a 47-year-old attorney and former LAPD sergeant, tearfully asked the judge to reconsider. Doctors have told O’Donnell, who lives in Santa Clarita with her 21-year-old daughter, that she will probably die within the next few months from lung cancer.
“This is not the outcome I prayed for, but as a lawyer, I am confident the appeals court will see our case in a different light,” O’Donnell said. “I don’t have much time left to live and that is why I support all end-of-life options, whether they are authorized by litigation or legislation. These options are urgent for me.”
The other patient plaintiffs are Sacramento resident Elizabeth Wallner, who has stage IV colon cancer; and Wolf Breiman, a retired landscape architect from Ventura who has incurable cancer of the white blood cells.
The fourth plaintiff is La Jolla physician Lynette Cederquist, who is board certified in internal medicine and hospice and palliative medicine.
The suit coincides with the legislative campaign to authorize the option of medical aid in dying by passing Senate Bill 128, the End of Life Option Act.
—City News Service