A federal district court ruled Sept. 2 that California — temporarily — cannot force medical professionals to participate in assisted suicide against their conscience.
The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted a preliminary injunction in Christian Medical & Dental Associations v. Bonta, prohibiting California officials from enforcing a provision “which requires a health care provider who is unable or unwilling to participate to ‘document the individual’s date of request and provider’s notice to the individual of their objection in the medical record[.]’”
Documenting a patient’s request for assisted suicide would fulfill the first of two oral requests required for a patient to undergo assisted suicide in that state.
“The court also clarified that the law doesn’t require [medical professionals] to refer for assisted suicide, or to provide information about it because that would violate their medical ethics and religious convictions,” Kevin Theriot, senior counsel for the faith-based legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom, told Catholic News Agency.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Christian medical professionals in February, concerns California’s End of Life Option Act, which legalized physician-assisted suicide in that state and went into effect in 2016. Following the act’s passage, California legislated not only to eliminate important safeguards from the act, but also to force physicians to participate.
With the preliminary injunction, the court decided that the medical professionals “are likely to succeed on the merits of their First Amendment free speech claim.”
Theriot, who argued on behalf of those challenging the California law, interpreted the court’s decision.
“Practically speaking, when a court does that, then the fact that you’re likely to succeed almost always means that you will,” he said.
….“We won on our free speech claim. The court said that you can’t compel a physician to violate their convictions by speaking in a way that is contrary to their beliefs,” he said. “But we also have a free exercise claim — and the court didn’t award the injunction based upon that claim — but we’re hopeful and confident that courts will recognize that this also violates freedom of religion and free exercise rights….”
In response to a request for comment, the office of the attorney general of California — Rob Bonta, who listed as a defendant in the lawsuit — told Catholic News Agency that it is reviewing the decision.
The above comes from a Catholic News Agency story published Sept. 7 in Catholic World Report.