(LifeSiteNews) — California has backed down on enforcing a law requiring medical practitioners to participate in physician-assisted suicides against their will and has agreed to pay $300,000 to the Christian medical professionals who took the state to court.
California legalized assisted suicide in 2015 with the End of Life Option Act, under which physicians were able to opt out of participation in, and could not be punished for, “refusing to inform” a patient about his “right” to assisted suicide or for refusing make a referral to a more willing physician.
However, in October 2021, Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law SB 380, which states that “participating” in assisted suicide remains “voluntary” but requires refusing physicians to refer patients to someone else and defines “participation” so narrowly as to effectively compel participation in the practice, according to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which filed a lawsuit against the law on behalf of the 16,000-member Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA) and Dr. Leslee Cochrane.
Last September, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted a preliminary injunction against enforcing the law, and on Wednesday, ADF announced that it has reached a settlement in which the state agrees to not enforce “any criminal or civil punishment, including professional discipline or licensing sanction for a California-licensed physician’s refusal or failure to” aid a patient in ending his or her life and to pay CMDA $300,000 for its attorneys’ fees and other expenses.
“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. “This is a significant victory for religious and conscientious physicians in California. The government can’t force any health care professional to act against his faith or medical ethics.”
While the ruling represents a victory for religious freedom and medical ethics, the ongoing national conflict between the assisted-suicide movement and conscience rights is far from settled.
The Biden administration has proposed rescinding federal regulations that provide conscience protections for professionals who do not want to engage in “abortion, sterilization, and certain other health services,” “assisted suicide, euthanasia, or mercy killing,” and for “managed care organizations with moral or religious objections to counseling or referral for certain services.”
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States can be reached by dialing 988.