End of Life Option Act and the Courts

The Coalition for Compassionate Care of California does not take a position on the End of Life Option Act. We are a source of neutral information on the provisions of the law.

2021 Update

The 2016 lawsuit, Ahn v. Hestrin, that briefly suspended the California End of Life Option Act in 2018, is dropped with the passing of SB 380 (D-Eggman). SB 380 also extends the law's repeal clause to January 1, 2031.

January 2020

A ruling by the Riverside County Superior Court confirms plaintiffs in the 2016 lawsuit challenging the End of Life Option Act lack standing and that the law was passed in the state Legislature appropriately.

June 15, 2018

A California appeals court has reinstated the End of Life Option Act law, ruling that it can remain in effect, at least temporarily, while opponents’ legal challenges are considered. This means that terminally-ill Californians who meet specific requirements can once again legally obtain life-ending medications while the case works its way through the courts. 

Overview Of End Of Life Option Act Legal Challenge

  • On May 15, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia issued a temporary ruling that the EoLOA was invalid because of how it was passed. The law was passed in October 2015 during a special legislative session that had been called by Governor Jerry Brown to address healthcare funding issues. According to the trial court, the EoLOA is not reasonably related to the healthcare issues that were the subject of the special session.
  • On May 21, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed an emergency appeal of the ruling and also asked that the EoLOA law be allowed to remain in effect while the matter moves through the courts.
  • On May 23, Becerra’s request for an emergency stay which would allow the law to remain in effect was denied by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs were notified that they had 25 days to show why the appellate court should not overturn the ruling.
  • On May 25, Judge Ottolia finalized his ruling that the EoLOA law is invalid because the way it was passed was unconstitutional.
  • On May 30, Judge Ottolia rejected a motion filed by two people with terminal cancer and a physician to reverse his ruling, and he set a June 29 hearing to consider the motion to vacate his earlier ruling.
    Judge Ottolia’s rulings, coupled with the Appeal court’s refusal to grant an emergency stay, means — for now — that the EoLOA law is suspended and cannot be enforced.
  • On June 15, California’s 4th District Court of Appeals granted the state’s request to reinstate the EoLOA law while it considers the case.

The court battle over the EoLOA, and uncertainty over it’s future, will likely continue for some time and will eventually end up at the state’s Supreme Court. This could be a long process of uncertainty for everyone involved. The original case on which Ottolia ruled, Ahn v. Hestrin, has two parts. One part argues it is invalid because it was passed during a special legislative session called for a different purpose, which is unconstitutional. The second part of the argument deals with the validity of the law itself. Once the court settles the question about the process by which the law was passed, it will then take on the substance of the law.

The Coalition for Compassionate Care of California (CCCC) takes no position on EoLOA legislation.

CCCC will continue to monitor the status of the EoLOA law and post updates as information becomes available.