A state appeals court in California has vacated a lower court ruling that struck the state’s physician-assisted suicide law as unconstitutional, finding the Christian doctors who challenged the 2016 law lacked standing to sue because they didn’t show they’ll be forced to help patients die.
The Fourth Appellate District’s Nov. 27 ruling did not, however, decide the constitutionality of the End of Life Option Act.
In 2017, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia advanced a lawsuit filed by Life Legal Defense Foundation on behalf of a group of California-based doctors and the American Academy of Medical Ethics doing business as Christian Medical and Dental Society. The groups sought to block the law on grounds it violated the state Constitution because it was passed during a special session of the Legislature meant to deal solely with access to health care.
The Riverside District Attorney and California Attorney General were named in the suit, which was filed the day before the law went into effect in 2016.
This past May, Ottolia agreed the law did not fall within the scope of access to health care services, ruled suicide should not be considered a medical service and granted summary judgment for the groups. He stayed his ruling, issued from the bench, to give the state time to appeal.
The state appealed and the appeals court temporarily reinstated the law. On Tuesday, the 3-judge panel declined to decide whether the Legislature’s actions in the special section violated the California Constitution. Instead, the panel found Ottolia should never have granted summary judgment since it was bound to accept the state’s denial – including the standing argument – as true at that stage in the proceedings.
Furthermore, the panel found the groups did not adequately show they had standing to bring the case in their complaint.
“Here, the requisite commonality of interest is missing. The Ahn parties’ terminally ill patients may be divided into two groups. One group, upon receiving their diagnosis, will want to request assisted suicide. The Ahn parties, however, brought this action to prevent them from doing so. They cannot possibly ‘speak for’ this group of patients, even if they claim to be doing so for their benefit. The other group will not want to request assisted suicide. In that event, however, all they have to do is not request it. The act simply does not affect them; thus, it also does not affect the Ahn parties,” Presiding Justice Manuel Ramirez wrote for the panel.
Full story at Courthouse News.