NRL News

Court case launched to declare assisted suicide unlawful and unconstitutional in the US.

by | Apr 28, 2023

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

This is my first analysis of the court case that was launched on April 25, 2023, to have the California assisted suicide law declared unlawful and unconstitutional. Future articles will further explain the case. Euthanasia Prevention Coalition–USA supports this initiative.

The United Spinal Association, Not Dead Yet, Institute for Patients’ Rights, Communities Actively Living Independent and Free, Lonnie VanHook, and Ingrid Tischer have launched a lawsuit in California to strike down the California assisted suicide law with the goal of the case going to the United States Supreme Court to strike down assisted laws throughout the US [].

Plaintiffs are all organizations with members who have disabilities, individual persons with disabilities, and/or organizations that advocate for persons with disabilities.

The case asserts that the assisted suicide act is a discriminatory scheme, which creates a two-tiered medical system in which people who are suicidal receive radically different treatment responses by their physicians and protections from the State depending on whether the person has what the physician deems to be a “terminal disease”—which, by definition, is a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The case states that assisted suicide laws are situated within a long history of American state laws and practices directly harming and discriminating against people with disabilities on the grounds that those peoples’ lives are not as worthy of protecting as are others. It also states that California’s assisted suicide law steers vulnerable people to their deaths instead of providing care and supportive services.

Plaintiff United Spinal’s members with spinal cord injuries at times experience depression and suicidal thoughts as they must adjust to living with their disability after injury. Most people with life-threatening conditions who say that they want to die are actually asking for assistance in living—that is, for help in dealing with the symptoms and practical necessities common to living with a terminal disability: those symptoms include depression, anxiety about the future, grief, inadequate care options, dependence, lack of control, fear about physical suffering, and spiritual despair.

The lawsuit states that the law discriminates against people with terminal disabilities by depriving them of protections afforded other persons under California law in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504”). The State’s suicide prevention programs are designed to ensure that a person’s expression of suicidal ideation is sufficient in itself to trigger mental health care, irrespective of whether they want treatment. Assisted suicide deprives Plaintiffs and their members access to these life-preserving interventions because of their disabilities.

The lawsuit states that the assisted suicide law violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The law fails to include sufficient safeguards to ensure that a judgment-impaired or unduly influenced person does not receive and/or ingest lethal physician-assisted suicide drugs without adequate due process in waiving their fundamental right to live. The Act’s failure to require an exhaustive or at least evidence of an informed rejection, of less restrictive alternatives to assisted suicide––including suicide prevention services, palliative care, hospice care, and other personal support services currently provided by the State––also violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The case is asking the court to declare the California assisted suicide act unlawful and unconstitutional.

Editor’s note. This appears on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.

Categories: Assisted Suicide