Dozens of terminally ill patients in California who counted on using the state’s medical aid-in-dying law may be in limbo for a month after a court ruling that suspended the 2016 measure.
A judge who ruled in May that the law was improperly enacted refused to vacate that decision at the request of advocates last week. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia set a hearing for June 29, however, to consider a separate motion by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra to reverse the decision.Opponents cheered what they hope will be the end of a law they’ve fought from the day it was passed. Compassion & Choices, an advocacy group that promotes aid-in-dying, filed a notice of appeal late Friday and asked Becerra to uphold the group’s legal opinion that their appeal would trigger a stay of Ottolia’s judgment. Such a stay would reinstate the law pending further court action. Becerra did not immediately respond to the group, or to requests for comment.For an estimated 200 patients who had already started the process of hastening their deaths, the decision has sparked confusion and fear, said Kat West, Compassion & Choices’ national policy director.As of May 30, doctors had stopped writing prescriptions for the lethal medications and pharmacists had stopped filling them, leaving patients uncertain how to proceed, she said.Dr. Lonny Shavelson, a Berkeley, Calif., physician whose practice focuses on aid-in-dying, said more than a dozen of his patients have been directly affected by the suspension.“These are patients who are in various stages of the process, all the way from a first verbal request to those about to get the medication,” he said.They include Debbie Gatzek Kratter, 69, a lawyer from Half Moon Bay, Calif., diagnosed last year with terminal pancreatic cancer, who has planned to take the drugs when her suffering becomes too great.