San Diegans rally for their right to aid-in-dying

SAN DIEGO -- After a California superior court judge on Tuesday overturned a state law that allows doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients, a group of advocates -- including some who eventually want help ending their lives -- gathered in San Diego to protest.

The rally was held at the Scottish Rite Center in Mission Valley, where Dr. Bob Uslander -- a physician and fierce aid-in-dying advocate -- the San Diego Hemlock Society, patients, family members and activists gathered to defend the now-overturned End of Life Option Act.

They say Tuesday's ruling has left people who have already started their "end-of-life journey" in a state of confusion and fear, and their caregivers without a clear path for advising them while a legal battle over the new ruling plays out.

"There are people who want to live no matter what. They will go to the hospital. They will go through surgery. They will get chemotherapy. That’s fine. That’s their choice, but here are other people like myself who don’t want a prolonged, painful, agonizing death,” said Shelley Plumb, one of Saturday's attendees.

"When my time comes, I want to go out as gently as possible."

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia ruled the End of Life Option Act unconstitutional on May 16.

Ottolia said the law, which took effect June 9, 2016, was unconstitutional because the California Legislature passed it during a special session convened by Gov. Jerry Brown to address health care-related issues.

Groups including the Life Legal Defense Foundation and the American Academy of Medical Ethics filed a lawsuit to overturn the law on the day it took effect. If their emergency appeal is denied, the law will be immediately struck down.