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Judge Overturns California Assisted Suicide Law


News now in California, where a judge has overturned the state's physician-assisted suicide law. It happened yesterday. But as member station KQED's Laura Klivans explains, the law remains in effect for now.

LAURA KLIVANS, BYLINE: The nearly 2-year-old law allows terminally ill patients to get lethal medication to end their lives. The judge who threw it out says the legislation was passed inappropriately by lawmakers during a special session intended for other purposes. The Life Legal Defense Foundation was one of the plaintiffs. Director Alexandra Snyder has a lot of misgivings about the law. She's worried about coercion and abuse.

ALEXANDRA SNYDER: You have people at, likely, the most vulnerable time of their lives potentially facing large medical expenses. And that puts them in a position of being vulnerable to pressure, not just from families but their own pressure that maybe this is a cheaper, less burdensome way to go.

KLIVANS: But California's Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning says the law empowers patients and there's a rigorous screening process to qualify. Monning co-authored the bill.

BILL MONNING: It seems a very desperate move, trying to argue that the way we did it in a special session of the legislature should be grounds for invalidating the law. It was Governor Brown who signed the law. He could have vetoed the bill or refused to sign it.

KLIVANS: Monning says he's received several letters of thanks from relatives of patients who took life-ending medications. According to a right-to-die advocacy group, more than 500 Californians filled prescriptions for their drugs within the first year. But it's unclear how many used them. The next move belongs to Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who says he strongly disagrees with the ruling and is fast-tracking an appeal.

For NPR News, I'm Laura Klivans.


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