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California End of Life Option Act challenged in Federal Court

A federal judge is considering whether the California End of Life Option Act needs to be extended in order to not violate the Americans With Disabilities Act. The act that prevents physicians from administering suicide drugs could be a violation of disability rights if the patients are too physically weak to give themselves the final dose, is the argument of the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs want to include a provision into the assisted suicide statute that allows physicians to help physically disabled patients ensure their end-of-life prescription medication is properly administered. “As long as a patient can begin the process with a physical act, they should be allowed assistance from a physician,” said Cat Cabalo, attorney for patients seeking the change to the law. Cabalo said some patients are so physically incapacitated by their disease or old age and infirmity that they can begin the assisted suicide process as required by the law but lack the strength to complete the action. In those cases, patients could administer enough medicine to make them sick and pass out, but they will sometimes come to, confused and traumatized. 

“I’m extremely skeptical that the plaintiffs can prevail in their case,” said U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria at the outset of a hearing on April 14. By the end of the hearing Chhabria appeared more favorably disposed toward Cabalo than the arguments of the attorneys representing the state of California, who contended such an alteration would fundamentally alter the concept of assisted suicide, which must be confined to the will of the patient. 

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