A group of Christian physicians sued the state of California on Tuesday, claiming that last year’s revisions to the state’s 2015 assisted suicide law will force medical personnel to violate their conscience and participate in procedures they oppose on religious grounds.
The new regulations, codified in California Senate Bill 380, now require physicians who have objections to assisted suicide to “document” a patient’s request before referring that patient to another physician.
The objecting physician would have to educate the patient about aid-in-dying medication and procedures and transfer the patient’s files to another doctor who would provide the treatment.
In addition, S.B. 380 shortens the period between the legally required two separate notifications by a patient that they wish to undergo the procedure from 15 days to 48 hours. Documentation of the request — even if made to a physician who has religious or ethical objections to the practice — would constitute one of those required notifications, making the objecting physician effectively a participant in the end-of-life procedure, the lawsuit claims.
Compelling these actions, attorneys representing the Christian Medical and Dental Associations claimed, effectively “mandates that physicians engage in statutorily required steps to advance the patient toward assisted suicide,” according to the suit filed in federal court.
The new bill compels all California physicians “to provide patients with information about assisted suicide and to refer patients for assisted suicide against their religious, ethical, and medical objections to doing so, and leaves them open to criminal, civil, administrative, and professional liability if they do not comply,” the complaint stated.
According to attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom, the public-interest law firm representing the physician’s group as well as California hospice physician Dr. Leslee Cochrane, the new measures, which took effect Jan. 1, will drive many out of the profession.
“When we think about this ongoing pandemic, health care workers are, of course, needed now more than ever,” ADF attorney Christy Hirsch said in a telephone interview. “When you force physicians to choose between violating their conscience or leaving the practice of medicine, this certainly doesn’t benefit anyone.”
Asserting that assisted suicide “harms those who are the most vulnerable in society,” including the deeply depressed and the poor, Ms. Hirsch added, “The government should be protecting the weak and not giving out licenses to kill these most vulnerable people.”
The Washington Times contacted the office of California Attorney General Rob Bonta, one of the defendants named in the action, for comment but did not receive an immediate response.
• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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