On January 7, opponents filed a notice of appeal with the California Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn the End of Life Option Act.
In November, Compassion & Choices and terminally ill Californians won a major victory when the state’s Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled that our opponents did not have standing to file their lawsuit opposing medical aid in dying.
This appeal asks the court to not only overrule the Court of Appeal on the issue of standing but also asks that the court overturn the End of Life Option Act in its entirety.
On February 27, the California Supreme Court rejected our opponents’ appeal to invalidate the California End of Life Option Act. The case returned to Riverside County District Court, where it will be heard by a new judge by the request of the California Attorney General.
On July 5, the courts granted our “motion to intervene” on behalf of two terminally ill patients. This motion was necessary to re-establish our role as an official party in the case. Compassion & Choices is once again the only organization to intervene and officially represent the wishes of terminally ill patients who want the End of Life Option Act to remain in full effect.
Accessing the Law
If you’re an eligible terminally-ill Californian who would like to access the law, you can use our Find Care Tool to locate a healthcare team that will honor your end-of-life values.
Our legal team mounted an ongoing and so-far successful effort to beat back a lawsuit filed by our opposition that briefly invalidated the End of Life Option Act. Our opponents claimed that the law should be invalidated because it was passed during a special legislative session on health care, rather than during the regular session. Read more about the court challenge here. Compassion & Choices also defended the law from legislation that would have made it more difficult for dying patients to access end-of-life options. The bill was defeated. To join our efforts to protect and defend the California law, click here.
Advocates in California also stopped a potential affiliation between Dignity Health — a religious medical system opposed to medical aid in dying — and University of San Francisco health systems. UCSF has been a leader in the state, implementing policies supportive of patient choice and providing patient-centered care at the end of life. This merger could have undercut those efforts and left terminally ill patients in the Bay Area and beyond without access to medical aid in dying.
Education & Outreach
Compassion & Choices has instituted a bilingual California Access campaign designed to help patients, caregivers and health professionals better understand how the law works, and help health facilities develop more supportive policies. This year alone, staff and volunteers presented at over 100 public outreach events. Compassion & Choices also actively provides technical assistance and presentations to healthcare providers on end-of-life options. One measure of success: to date more than 80% of large health facilities have adopted policies supportive of medical aid in dying.
California Volunteer Orientation and Onboarding Webinars are held two Thursdays per month at 9am. To RSVP and receive instructions for joining the webinar, please complete this form. For additional information, please contact Erika Ruiz, CA Public Outreach Manager at [email protected]
California Advance Directive
State-specific advance directives make clear your end-of-life preferences if you are unable to make or communicate medical treatment decisions yourself. For the California advance directive form, click here.
Compassion & Choices has remained active in California since legislative attempts first came about, but in 2014 we launched an ambitious five-year plan to successfully pass a medical aid-in-dying law. Thanks to a young woman named Brittany Maynard who shared her experience, we were able to see passage of the legislation in less than a year.
Compassion & Choices led a multi-pronged approach: We organized our supporters to pass local resolutions and prepare for a ballot measure; we educated the Legislature; and we filed a lawsuit asserting the right of Californians to choose medical aid in dying.
We implemented a robust field and legislative strategy, deploying staff and rallying thousands of volunteers on the ground in California. We also invested over half a million dollars into research to find out how a highly diverse state like California understands and talks about end-of-life issues, specifically aid in dying. California became an opportunity for Compassion & Choices to really flesh out our strategy and our capacity as an organization. Compassion & Choices’ national Spanish-language media outreach and national storyteller project were both launched as part of this campaign.
State Senators Bill Monning (D-Carmel) and Lois Wolk (D-Davis) approached us to help pass their bill, SB 128, End of Life Option Act. Despite an intense field and lobbying effort, SB 128 was assigned to a committee with not enough support to pass it. Compassion & Choices’ team proposed a strategy to introduce a new version of the same bill in a legislative special session, and Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) led the final push to get the new End of Life Option Act through the Legislature and to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown. After a briefing from Compassion & Choices staff and supporters and a request to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu to share his support, Governor Brown signed the bill into law.
The California Assembly recognized Compassion & Choices’ work to pass California’s End of Life Option Act with a dedicated resolution.
The End of Life Option Act took effect June 9, 2016, but our work didn’t stop with enactment. Compassion & Choices has been on the ground working to implement the law by ensuring access for terminally ill residents, and working to educate healthcare providers about the end-of-life option — all while fighting legal challenges to the law.