Appeals Court Overturns Lower Court Ruling
Riverside – Last Wednesday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Riverside overturned a lower court ruling that previously held California’s assisted suicide law was unconstitutional. The court over-turned the lower court ruling because the doctors who bought the case could not show they were harmed by the law as it does not limit their ability to refuse to assist a terminally ill patient end his/her life.
Under the law, if a terminally ill patient has six months or less to live, they can request a prescription drug to end his/her own life provided he/she meets a set of standards—however, doctors are not required to participate in the law.
In this case, the court ruled the doctors, represented as the Life Legal Defense Foundation, did not have standing, therefore the justices could not rule on the constitutionality of the law. The doctors’ lawsuit now goes back to the lower court where they may choose to amend it and refile.
The ruling in this case will have no impact on the current status of assisted suicide in California. The law was previously declared unconstitutional by a superior court judge because it was adopted during a special legislative session, however an appeals court subsequently reinstated the legislation while it works its way through the appeal process under the auspices of the California Attorney General.