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Lawsuit progresses against California’s medical aid-in-dying law

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Suzanne Potter

(California News Service) California's medical aid-in-dying law is still under fire this week - as Friday is the deadline for the state to respond to a federal lawsuit seeking to invalidate it

The California End of Life Option Act allows terminally ill patients with less than six months to live to get a prescription they could use to end their suffering. 

The plaintiffs include the disability rights group "Not Dead Yet," which opposes medical aid in dying. 

Charmaine Manansala, who has a disability herself, supports the law and works as the chief advocacy officer with the nonprofit Compassion & Choices.

"In the twenty plus years medical aid-in-dying laws have been around, there's been no evidence of coercion or abuse," said Manansala. "And the law specifically states just because you have a disability doesn't mean you qualify for medical aid in dying."

The California Department of Health reports more than 2,800 terminally ill Californians received prescriptions from 2016 to 2020, and about 1,800 opted to use the medication. 

A new film on the subject has just been nominated for an Emmy. "Last Flight Home" tells the story of Eli Timoner, a terminally-ill California man who used the law to die peacefully. 

Timoner's daughter Ondi is a documentary filmmaker who produced, directed, wrote and edited the movie. She said the End of Life Option Act gave her father a sense of peace and a feeling of agency. 

"It's a basic human right, that we all deserve to have bodily autonomy at the end of life," said Timoner. "I think it's very important that people choose the day if they want to, and can gather their family around them, like we did. It allows everyone in the family healing and closure."

The film can be viewed on Paramount Plus and Amazon.