A new California law that requires doctors to participate in physician-assisted suicide is being challenged by a coalition of Christian medical professionals who claim it violates their free speech and religious liberty rights.
The law, known as SB 380, was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year and lowers the waiting period for end-of-life drugs from 15 days to 48 hours.
Although the text of the law says physicians who object to assisted suicide “shall not be required to participate,” the law actually requires all doctors to participate at the beginning of the process, according to the suit. That’s because a doctor who opposes the law must still write the date of an individual’s request for end-of-life drugs “in the medical record” and then transfer the record “with documentation” to a “new health care provider or health care entity,” according to the law’s text.
Thus, the law requires all doctors – even ones with religious objections – to start the clock for a patient’s suicide, the suit says.
The suit was filed in federal court Tuesday on behalf of Christian Medical & Dental Associations and a Christian physician, Leslee Cochrane. They are represented by Alliance Defending Freedom.
“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, or referring a patient for, physician-assisted suicide very clearly would violate their consciences,” said ADF senior counsel Denise Harle, director of the ADF Center for Life. “No health care professional should be forced to act against their religious beliefs and medical ethics, and the state of California is wrong to enforce such coercion.”
The suit says the new law “mandates that physicians engage in statutorily required steps to advance the patient toward assisted suicide” – that is, “to fulfill at least one of the requirements for assisted suicide.”
The lawsuit says more than 90 percent of CMDA members “would rather stop practicing medicine than be forced to participate in assisted suicide or other practices in violation of their consciences.” Cochrane, the suit says, “seeks to live out his Christian beliefs in his practice of health care, including his belief in the sanctity of human life.”
The suit says that the new law violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees of free speech and religious liberty.
“It would violate [Cochrane’s] conscience to participate in assisted suicide in any way,” the suit says.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.