California’s physician-assisted suicide law passed illegally, appeals court affirms

A California appeals court on May 23 refused to overturn a lower court's ruling that deemed the state's law permitting physician-assisted suicide was passed illegally, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Here are four things to know about the case:

1. A state superior court for Riverside (Calif.) County judge issued a five-day stay against the "aid-in-dying" law last week, stating the legislation violated the state constitution because the bill did not fall within the scope of healthcare services when it was under debate during a special section. The law, which went to court after several nonprofit organizations and physicians challenged it, allows adults to obtain prescriptions for life-ending medication if a physician has determined they have six months or less to live.

2. An appeals court May 23 refused to overturn the stay on law, but granted California Attorney General Xavier Becerra more time to "show cause," or provide additional arguments for suspending the lower court's ruling. Mr. Becerra has argued the law was legitimately passed. His office did not immediately respond to the Los Angeles Times' requests for comment.

3. Officials of the nonprofit organization Compassion & Choices claim physicians and patients are protected under the law while its fate is being decided.

"Physicians still are protected under the law to write prescriptions for their terminally ill patients who want the end-of-life care option," an official with Compassion & Choices told the publication. "This preliminary ruling is just one step in what promises to be a long legal battle, so people should not change their current treatment plans because of it."

4. An estimated 111 terminally ill patients utilized privileges under the law to end their lives within the first six months after the legislation went into effect in June 2016, according to state health officials. Physician-assisted suicide is also allowed in Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Colorado, Hawaii and Washington, D.C., according to the Los Angeles Times.

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