SF Judge: Legislature should decide on death with dignity, not court

Byby Melanie Woodrow KGO logo
Saturday, August 15, 2015
SF Judge: Legislature should decide on death with dignity, not court
A San Francisco Superior Court judge decided Friday that death with dignity decisions are not up to the courts, but something the legislature should decide.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- An important decision was made Friday in the death-with-dignity debate. The decision means that a woman with cancer will not be allowed to die with the help of a physician in California.

Christy O'Donnell has lung cancer and says she wants to die peacefully. A judge Friday said the decision was for the legislature, not the court.

O'Donnell was one of several people fighting for the right to die in San Francisco Superior Court Friday.

"I am disappointed, but I want to make clear that my crying does not reflect that I am hopeless because I am not," O'Donnell said.

Attorney Kathryn Tucker with the Disability Rights Legal Center is representing physicians who support O'Donnell's wishes. Tucker and the other plaintiff's attorneys were seeking an injunction that would protect the physicians from prosecution for giving a lethal dose of medication to a mentally competent, terminally ill patient who could then decide whether or not to take that medication.

"We represent physicians who have patients who dying horrible deaths who want the option of a peaceful death," Tucker said.

The Attorney General's Office, along with the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, argued it was not a decision for the courts, rather one for the legislature.

"Technically, there's no court at least no court decision that still stands where a court in the U.S. has found that there's a fundamental right to physician assisted suicide," said Darrell Spence, Calif. Deputy Attorney General.

Judge Ernest Goldsmith agreed.

"This is extraordinary relief that would have enormous, far-reaching, life and death implications," Goldsmith said.

Dan Diaz, Brittany Maynard's husband, was supporting O'Donnell in court Friday. Maynard was a terminally ill Bay Area woman who moved to Oregon, a right to die state. He says they moved so she could pass away peacefully.

For the latest details on Brittany Maynard's passing and right-to-die legislation, click here.