June 16 (UPI) -- A California appeals court has reinstated the state's medical aid in dying law that a county judge overturned last month.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal's ruling on Friday allows the controversial law to stay in effect while litigation is ongoing. The law, called the End of Life Option Act, gives patients with less than six months to live the option to request access to lethal medications from their doctors.
"This ruling provides some relief to California patients, their families, and doctors who have been living in uncertainty while facing difficult health decisions," Becerra said. "Today's court ruling is an important step to protect and defend the End of Life Option Act for our families across the state."
Opponents have until July 2 to file a petition against the court's decision.
The ruling comes after Riverside County Judge Daniel A Ottolia overturned the law last month. Ottolia had ruled that the law was unconstitutional because the legislature approved it in a 2015 special session dedicated to healthcare issues and it wasn't a healthcare matter.
California's assisted suicide law took effect in 2016.
Six other states -- Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Hawaii, along with the District of Columbia -- have also authorized medical aid in dying, according to Compassion and Choices, a nonprofit organization which has advocated for the law. This means nearly one out of five Americans now live in a state where the practice is legal, the nonprofit said.
"This stay is a huge win for many terminally ill Californians with six months or less to live because it could take years for the courts to resolve this case," said Kevin Díaz, national director of legal advocacy for Compassion & Choices, whose sister organization, Compassion & Choices Action Network, led the campaign to pass the End of Life Option Act. "Thankfully, this ruling settles the issue for the time being, but we know we have a long fight ahead before we prevail."