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Advocates Celebrate Legal Victory for End-of-Life Care in CA


Monday, November 8, 2021   

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - An appeals court judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging medical-aid-in-dying in California.

The End-of-Life-Option Act allows terminally ill patients with six months to live to get a prescription for medication to pass away peacefully instead of enduring terrible pain.

Matthew Fairchild is a 51-year-old Catholic retired military man from Burbank who has terminal cancer that has spread to his brain, bones and lungs - and was a party to the lawsuit. He said people who are dying should be able to manage the process.

"Even if you never use it, having the knowledge that it's there gives you that level of comfort that you have some control over the end of your life," said Fairchild. "For me, it was always about having a legal avenue to not suffer."

The lawsuit was filed five years ago by a group called the Life Legal Defense Foundation. The suit claimed that the bill was unconstitutional since it was passed in a special legislative session on health care.

That argument became moot when lawmakers reauthorized the law and improved access to it a few months ago. On January 1, the required waiting period between a patient's two oral requests for the medication will be reduced from 15 days to 48 hours.

Newport Beach Attorney John Kappos argued on behalf of Fairchild and the advocacy group Compassion & Choices before the court of appeals.

"This is a great result for all citizens in California who respect the rights of terminally ill people and who may find themselves in that position someday," said Kappos.

A judge put the law on hold for a few weeks in 2018 before Compassion & Choices filed an appeal that automatically reinstated it - and that year medical aid-in-dying prescriptions in California dropped by 22%.

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