A federal district court in California has ruled that physicians who object to assisted suicide on religious or ethical grounds can’t be required to participate in the procedure.
California legalized physician-assisted suicide and later passed a bill requiring doctors who object to “document” a patient’s request and refer the suicidal person to another doctor.
Along with transferring patient files to the alternate physician, the objecting doctor would have to “educate” patients about medicine and procedures that would help with suicide attempts.
The legislation, known as California Senate Bill 380 and which took effect in January, truncated the time between the two legally required separate notifications by a patient affirming a desire for assisted suicide from 15 days to 48 hours.
Attorneys for the Christian Medical and Dental Associations and Dr. Leslee Cochrane, a hospice physician, sought to halt enforcement of the law while a February lawsuit they filed over the bill proceeds.
“Our clients seek to live out their faith in their medical practice, and that includes valuing every human life entrusted to their care.
Participating in physician-assisted suicide very clearly would violate their consciences,” said Kevin Theriot, senior counsel with public interest law firm Alliance Defending Freedom, in a statement.
According to the court’s opinion, requiring doctors to document a patient’s request is essentially asking an objecting physician to “participate” in the procedure.
In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that pro-life pregnancy centers in California did not have to violate their beliefs when a state law required them to dispense information about abortion providers.
Mr. Theriot said the district court’s ruling mirrored the 2018 high court decision.
According to the district court’s opinion, requiring physicians to “document” a patient’s request would mean “non-participating providers are compelled to participate in the Act through [even its] documentation requirement, despite their objections to assisted suicide.”
When the CMDA lawsuit against the measure was filed, ADF attorney Christy Hirsch told The Washington Times that “when you force physicians to choose between violating their conscience or leaving the practice of medicine, this certainly doesn’t benefit anyone.”
Via email, California Attorney General Ron Bonta’s office said, “We are reviewing the decision.”
• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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