Christian group sues California over expanded assisted suicide law

assisted suicide
Reuters

A Christian medical organization and a licensed medical professional have sued California over changes to its assisted suicide law that they say require them to participate in the controversial procedure.

The Christian Medical and Dental Associations and Dr. Leslee Cochrane filed the suit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The complaint argues that recently passed Senate Bill 380 requires a physician with a patient requesting assisted suicide “to document the request in that patient’s medical record, even if the physician objects to participating in the suicide. assisted in any way”.

Enacted last October, the legislation also amends the state’s assisted suicide law by reducing the minimum time between a patient’s two required oral requests for life-threatening drugs from 15 days to 48 hours.

The legal filing also states that physicians who refuse to participate in the assisted suicide approval process, such as determining decision-making capacity or referring a patient to a physician who is willing to perform the act , expose themselves to “civil, criminal and administrative proceedings”. , disciplinary, employment, accreditation, professional discipline, contractual liability or medical personnel action, sanction or penalty or other liability. »

The named defendants include California Attorney General Rob Bonta, California Department of Public Health Director Tomás J. Aragón, and members of the California Medical Board.

“In sum, the original End-of-Life Options Act provided broad protection for conscientious objector physicians, but SB 380 eliminates or limits that protection,” the lawsuit reads.

“The plaintiffs do not wish to participate in assisted suicide in any way, but they fear being penalized under SB 380 and being sued against their medical licenses if they do not.”

The CMDA and Cochrane are represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative nonprofit legal association that has successfully argued religious freedom cases before the United States Supreme Court.

ADF lead attorney Denise Harle said in a statement Tuesday that plaintiffs “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 or referring a patient there for physician-assisted suicide would very clearly violate their conscience,” Harle said.

“No medical professional should be coerced into acting against their religious beliefs and medical ethics, and the State of California is wrong to impose such coercion.”

In October 2015, then Governor. Jerry Brown signed the End of Life Option Act, the law taking effect the following June and making California the fifth state to allow residents to end their lives with doctor-prescribed drugs.

Several groups and a terminally ill mother of four named Stephanie Packer sued California over the law shortly after it took effect, arguing that it lacked safeguards and rejecting the idea that suicide should be considered crimes. Health care.

In May 2018, Riverside State Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia ruled against the law, finding that state lawmakers passed it unconstitutionally.

But later that year, a three-judge panel of the California 4th District Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s decision, finding the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue.

Last November, the appeals court found the Packer lawsuit moot because lawmakers reauthorized and extended the law into 2021.

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