SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Proponents of California’s End of Life law were shocked to learn that a Riverside County judge had overturned the law on Tuesday. Now, they vow to appeal the decision.
“When this is done, there’s not going to be a thousand, a million, 500,000 sitting on one side cheering because they won,” said Matt Fairchild, who has been living with Stage 4 melanoma.
The 48-year-old is a retired Army staff sergeant from Burbank. He says the melanoma has spread to his bones, lungs, and brain, causing him to take 26 medications a day. And it pains him to know that choosing life-ending drugs may not be an option for people in his position.
“It stunned me for a moment, and then it got me angry,” Fairchild said.
The judge’s decision comes after advocates fought for years to legalize death with dignity. Advocates like Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old California woman who moved to Oregon to receive life-ending drugs.
Four years after her death, her husband Dan Diaz calls the ruling a setback.
“The fact that this has been taken from them, that’s what really tears me up,” he said.
A group of Southern California doctors filed a lawsuit opposing the law when it took effect in June 2016. The suit says “[the doctors] bring this action to protect the rights of their patients…from being assisted and abetted in committing suicide.”
The judge didn’t rule the end-of-life law unconstitutional on Tuesday, but overturned it based on how it was passed as part of a special session on health care issues.
“What the court ruled today is that the End Of Life Option Act, which deals with medical aid and dying, was not within the scope of the special session and was therefore unconstitutional,” said attorney John Kappos, who represents end-of-life advocate group Compassion & Choices.
But what about the people with the drugs already in hand? Kappos told CBS13 the ruling likely won’t affect people who currently have the drugs but would affect others in the future.
Now, it’s up to Attorney General Xavier Becerra to file an appeal to keep existing law in place.
“Once we get past this appeals process, I’m confident this law will stand,” Diaz said.
Attorney General Becerra released a statement saying, “We strongly disagree with this ruling and the state is seeking expedited review in the Court of Appeal.”