The nation's largest faith-based organization, the 19,000-member Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA, www.cmda.org), today hailed a California judge's ruling in its lawsuit against assisted suicide in California.
Legislator sponsors of the End of Life Option Act had introduced the bill in a special session of the legislature convened by Governor Jerry Brown to address Medicaid funding shortfalls, services for the disabled and in-home health support services. Alexandra Snyder, executive director of Life Legal Defense Foundation, one of the groups filing the suit, said the California assisted-suicide law violates state equal protection provisions because people who are deemed terminally ill lose critical legal protections.
California's physician aid-in-dying law was thrown into limbo Tuesday when a state judge overturned it because the Legislature unconstitutionally passed it during a special session limited to healthcare issues.
Since Maynard'd death on November 1, 2014 at age 29, her husband Dan Diaz has helped push for the passage of a right-to-die law in their home state of California - as well as similar legislation in Hawaii, Colorado and Washington, D.C. Maynard's family advocated for the law in California and elsewhere.
"He's not acknowledging it's a health care issue, even though we believe it is", spokesman Sean Wherley said.
Doctors who sued to prevent the law from passing in 2016 said it lacked a suitable definition of terminal illness and a plan for exempting doctors from liability who prescribe lethal drugs.
"After the End of Life Option Act was implemented, Stephanie's insurance company denied coverage of life-saving chemotherapy treatment, but said it would pay for "aid-in-dying" drugs, which would cost $1.20", Life Legal said.
"The people we represent are shocked and are absolutely heartbroken this option has been taken away from them", spokesman Sean Crowley said.
An estimated 504 Californians have received prescriptions for medical aid in dying as of June 2017 since the law took effect on June 9, 2016, according to Compassion & Choices. "Access to health care has no relationship to assisted suicide".
California's End of Life Option Act requires patients to get approval from two physicians, and mandates a 15-day waiting period between the two oral requests they must submit, one to each doctor, before they can obtain the lethal drug to end their life. The resolution called on churches and Christians "to care for the elderly among us, to show them honor and dignity, and to prayerfully support and counsel those who are providing end-of-life care for the aged, the terminally ill, and the chronically infirmed". Life Legal Defense Foundation and the American Academy of Medical Ethics - both of which have affiliations with religious groups - led the way in challenging the law.
While the overturning of the California law disappointed Diaz, he said he is optimistic more states will enact legislation moving forward.
Doctor-assisted suicide is now legal in five states and the District of Columbia.
The courts have given the state five days to file an emergency appeal. "Brittany was simply saying, 'I will not die that way, and I shouldn't be forced to, '" he said.