A California judge on Tuesday threw out a 2016 state law allowing the terminally ill to end their lives, ruling it was unconstitutionally approved by the Legislature. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia said lawmakers acted illegally in passing the law during a special session devoted to other topics, according to lawyers for supporters and opponents. He did not address the legal issue of whether it was proper to allow people to take their own lives, and gave the state attorney general five days to appeal, the AP reports. Alexandra Snyder, an attorney and executive director of Life Legal Defense Foundation, said the judge ruled that lawmakers effectively "hijacked" a special legislative session that was called to address access to medical care and used it to pass their bill.
The Life Legal Defense Foundation, American Academy of Medical Ethics, and several physicians challenged the law, which allows adults to obtain a prescription for life-ending drugs if a doctor has determined they have six months or less to live. The plaintiffs say the law lacks safeguards to protect against abuse. Compassion & Choices, a national organization that advocated for the law, estimated that in its first year, 504 Californians requested prescriptions for medical aid in dying. "Our supporters, they've frankly expressed shock at this outcome. They're disappointed that this end of life option could be taken away," said John Kappos, an attorney representing Compassion & Choices. (A sixth state legalized medically assisted suicide last month.)