May 18, 2023

California Lawsuit Intends to Strike Down Assisted Suicide Laws

A coalition of groups launched a lawsuit challenging California's assisted suicide law on April 25, 2023. The coalition intends to take it all the way to the Supreme Court to strike down assisted suicide laws across the country.

Plaintiffs argue that "California’s assisted suicide law is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the equal protection and substantive due process clauses in the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution." A synopsis of their argument can be found on the coalition's website here.

The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a "terminal disease" as a disability. Thus, the coalition argues that assisted suicide laws discriminate against those with terminal diseases by prescribing them radically different care. These laws steer people towards prescribed death rather than supportive services.

It should be noted that assisted suicide is also prescribed to people with non-terminal diseases and conditions. In some states, HIV, diabetes, or even anorexia are enough for states to allow assisted suicide.

The coalition consists of organizations with disabled members, individual persons with disabilities, and organizations that advocate for the disabled. Members of the coalition include the United Spinal Association, Not Dead Yet, Institute for Patients’ Rights, Communities Actively Living Independent and Free, Lonnie VanHook, and Ingrid Tischer.

Assisted suicide is currently legal in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Vermont just passed a law legalizing assisted suicide for non-residents, and Oregon currently does not enforce its residency requirement.