Debevoise Files Amicus Brief in Support of ALS Patients’ Fight for Equal Rights Under the California End of Life Options Act

4 March 2022

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP has filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of four organizations – Golden West Chapter (ALS Association), End of Life Choices California, Crip Justice and Disability Justice Law & Organizing Project –urging the District Court for the Northern District of California to deny the state of California’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by plaintiffs who argue that the state’s End of Life Options Act (EOLA) discriminates against physically disabled patients, like those with ALS.

EOLA allows mentally competent terminally ill adults to obtain medication that can be ingested to achieve a peaceful death, but prohibits others from assisting the patient with ingesting the medication. Thus, Californians whose physical disability prevents them from self-administering the medicine without assistance are denied access and are unable to achieve a peaceful death.

The brief argues that the EOLA discriminates against patients with ALS and does not take into account the way in which the disease progresses, which erodes a patient’s physical health while their mental processes remain intact. Consequently, ALS patients are forced to choose between dying earlier than they want to because they fear losing the ability to self-administer the medication without assistance or not being able to take advantage of the California law. The brief emphasizes the importance of equal opportunity for people living with ALS and those with similar neurodegenerative diseases to seek aid in dying as otherwise permitted by the statute.

The Debevoise team is led by litigation counsel Jared Kagan and associates Megan McGuiggan, Patrick Maroun and Isabelle Canaan with assistance from litigation partner David Bernstein from the firm’s new San Francisco office.

Debevoise partner Ed Schallert led a longtime litigation effort to establish a right to aid-in-dying in New York State. Ed passed away late last year and the team is proud to continue his efforts on this issue.