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RIVERSIDE, Calif. (Reuters) – A California judge on Friday refused to suspend a new state law allowing physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, citing the need to protect them from pain, but he allowed a legal challenge to proceed. The mixed ruling portends a continued debate over the highly contested law in the first months of its implementation.

“The court won’t be deterred when there’s a matter of public interest this large,” Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia said on Friday (8.26.16).

A group of doctors in Riverside, east of Los Angeles, filed a lawsuit to overturn the so-called California End of Life Option, which was passed by the state legislature last year and went into effect in June.

Attorneys for the doctors requested a preliminary injunction to suspend the law while the lawsuit proceeds. But Ottolia denied the request, saying it would harm terminally ill patients.
“The injunction would subject them to additional pain,” Ottolia said in court.

Ottolia also ruled on a request by the state and other supporters of the End of Life Option to dismiss the lawsuit instead. They argued the doctors lack proper legal standing to bring their case.
“Plaintiffs have patients that fall under the act so the case is not hypothetical,” Ottolia said, in denying the request to put aside the lawsuit.

California was the fifth U.S. state to legalize medical aid in dying for terminally ill patients, terminology that advocates prefer over the phrase “physician-assisted suicide.”

At least 30 individuals are known to have obtained a prescription under California’s law since it took effect on June 9, according to Compassion & Choices, a group backing the law.
The doctors named as plaintiffs were joined by the American Academy of Medical Ethics, also known as the Christian Medical and Dental Society.

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