Appeals Court Affirms EOLOA Remains in Effect

by Karl Steinberg, MD, CMD, HMDC

On November 27, a California Court of Appeals basically upheld the End of Life Option Act, which had been ruled invalid by a Riverside trial court judge.  The original lawsuit, Ahn v. Hestrin, alleged that the law was not passed through proper channels, and the judge agreed. The law, which allows medical aid in dying for terminally ill patients, was briefly invalidated in May 2018 before this Appeals Court stayed the ruling.  Now, after deliberation, the Court has determined that the original lawsuit was invalid because the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring a lawsuit, since they did not actually have a stake in whether the law existed or not. Since participation is completely voluntary for both patients and physicians, it was felt that they simply did not have any basis to oppose the law.  The dissenting judge went even farther, opining that the original law was passed by appropriate means and there was no basis for the original lawsuit at all.

It is possible that another plaintiff may challenge the law, but it seems unlikely that the End of Life Option Act will be invalidated.  And for now and the foreseeable future, it remains fully in effect as it has been since June 2016, with the exception of that brief hiatus after the Ahn v. Hestrin ruling in May.  As far as CALTCM knows, the EOLOA has not been utilized in a skilled nursing facility setting. Because the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) does not provide data on location of death, we cannot be certain.  It is known that there have been instances of medical aid in dying under the Act in Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFEs).

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