SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CNS) -- A May
15 ruling by a California judge overturning the state's law allowing assisted
suicide is encouraging because it "was a bad law," said Ned Dolejsi, executive
director of the California Catholic Conference.
"Our opposition to assisted
suicide is no secret, but this legislation was also opposed by a broad
coalition of doctors, nurses, seniors and the disabled community, who fought
this bill for many, many reasons," said Dolejsi said in a May 16 statement.
Judge Daniel A. Ottolia of Riverside
County Superior Court ruled that the California Legislature violated existing law
when it passed the End of Life Option Act during a special session dedicated to
health care. The 2015 law, which went into effect in June 2016, authorized
doctors to prescribe lethal prescriptions to any patient determined by two
doctors to have six months or less to live.
In a tweet late May 16, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said:
"We celebrate the news that the CA law legalizing assisted suicide has
-- for now -- been overturned. Assisted suicide is not health care. We
pray that this ruling will stand and that lawmakers will rethink this
tragic mistake, reject assisted suicide and protect all patients."
Ottolia gave California Attorney
General Xavier Becerra five days to file an appeal to keep the law in place.
On June 16, 2017, the same judge
ruled that a civil rights lawsuit challenging the assisted suicide law could go
forward. Five California physicians and the American Academy of Medical Ethics
brought the legal challenge.
"Health care professionals were
shocked at the cynicism and questioned why the state was embracing
doctor-assisted suicide as the standard of care for people who needed respect
and support," Dolejsi
said in his statement. "Others were offended at the way Medi-Cal patients --
often refused coverage for palliative care -- were offered coverage for lethal
"Still others were truly
disturbed by the lack of safeguards to prevent seniors and the disabled from
being railroaded into assisted suicide," he continued.
Last year in arguing against the
lawsuit going forward, Becerra said that no one would be required to
resort to the law. But he also said that terminally ill patients are different
from others and therefore can be treated differently, and that patients who
choose to end their lives have the right to have a physician help them do so.
But Dolejsi said that state
lawmakers in January "openly discussed ways that physician-assisted suicide
could be expanded -- especially to poor and minority communities." This came, he
said, during an oversight hearing to review the implementation of the assisted
suicide law. Legislators discussed expansion "even though (they were) presented
with clear evidence of poor data collection and other implementation
uncertainties," he said.
"This was a bad law. We hope the
court's ruling is sustained," Dolejsi said. "If this issue comes before the
Legislature again, we hope they address the real issue in front of them -- how
do we protect the dignity and quality of life of those among us facing a serious
or terminal illness, and how do we help our loved ones feel love and support as
they contemplate the end of their life."
The Sacramento-based California
Catholic Conference is the public policy arm of the state's Catholic bishops.