Our advocacy on behalf of Californians with terminal illnesses involving progressive loss of physical ability continues. The case was filed in August of 2021, and is discussed HERE.
California’s End of Life Options Act discriminates against these disabled patients. The law allows mentally competent terminally ill adults to obtain medication that can be ingested to achieve a peaceful death. This option is known as aid in dying (“AID”). However, the law prohibits assisting a patient with ingesting the medication. Cal. Health & Safety Code § 443.14(a). Californians whose physical disability prevents them from ingesting the AID medicine without assistance are thus denied access, they are unable to achieve a peaceful death via AID.
The State has moved to dismiss the case arguing, inter alia, that these patients can access AID but must do so earlier, before their illness causes so much physical disability that they cannot ingest without assistance. This perverse position would force such patients to ingest the medication prematurely, depriving them of a period of precious life, and time with loved ones. The entire purpose of the Act is to empower the patient with autonomy to decide if, and if so, when, to ingest the medication to achieve a peaceful death. The state would nullify such autonomy for this group of physically disabled patients.
This civil rights class action seeks to rectify the exclusion of physically disabled individuals from the EOLOA, calling for reasonable modification of the assistance prohibition, to ensure that physically disabled Californians are afforded equal benefit of the EOLOA.
Today plaintiffs filed their opposition to the State’s Motion to Dismiss. The Opposition is supported with an expert Declaration of Professor Thaddeus Pope, a renowned expert in end of life law and policy.
Earlier media stories about this effort include the following:
- A Fight to Die, Bloomberg News Magazine
- When aid-in-dying means you have to go before you’re ready, The Mercury News
The plaintiffs are represented by long-time patient rights advocate Kathryn Tucker, Special Counsel at Emerge Law Group. Tucker is past Executive Director of the Disability Rights Legal Center, and the End of Life Liberty Project, which was a sponsored project of UCSF / UC Hastings Consortium on Law, Science and Health Policy. Prior to that she served as Director of Advocacy and Legal Affairs at Compassion & Choices for many years. Tucker has litigated many cases concerning the rights of patients with terminal illness, including Glucksberg v WA, Quill v NY, Baxter v Montana, Bergman v Eden Medical Center, Hargett v Vitas, AIMS et al v DEA.