A coalition of Christian medical professionals won a major legal victory Friday when a federal district court ruled they are not required to participate in the state’s new physician-assisted suicide law.
At issue is SB 380, which was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year and lowers the waiting period for life-ending drugs from 15 days to 48 hours.
Although one section of the law says doctors “shall not be required to participate,” another section requires non-participating doctors to “document the individual’s date of request” for life-ending drugs. That action starts the 48-hour clock for individuals who want to end their life.
Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA) sued the state, asserting that the law makes its members participants in an action they morally oppose. 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,” according to the lawsuit. Leslee Cochrane, a CMDA member, joined the suit.
On Friday, Fernando L. Aenlle-Rocha sided with CMDA and Cochrane, ruling that the law likely violates their free speech rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Aenlle-Rocha issued a preliminary injunction preventing California from enforcing the section of the law in question.
“Plaintiffs have demonstrated they are likely to suffer a violation of a constitutional right absent an injunction,” Aenlle-Rocha wrote.
Alliance Defending Freedom represents Christian Medical and Dental Associations and Cochrane in the suit.
“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 ADF senior counsel Kevin Theriot. “We’re pleased the court followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s  decision in NIFLA v. Becerra that clarified First Amendment protections extend to religious medical professionals.”
The case is CMDA vs. Bonta.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Cunaplus M. Faba
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.