Doctors have been fighting an ongoing legal battle in California for their right to refuse to participate in a morally abhorrent medical practice. Thankfully, a settlement has been reached in a case that reaffirms the religious liberty of doctors across California.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Attorneys filed a lawsuit against the state, representing a doctor and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations. ADF argued that doctors are well within their rights to refuse to participate in physician-assisted suicide, the practice of allowing terminally ill patients to obtain life-ending drugs from their doctors. Proponents insist these practices are “compassionate” or “dignified” ways to die, when in reality, they’re a grave violation of human dignity.
The lawsuit, Christian Medical & Dental Associations v. Bonta, came in response to changes made to California’s End of Life Options Act last year, which compelled doctors to participate in physician-assisted suicide regardless of their religious beliefs and professional ethics. Despite the widespread consensus among medical professionals that no physician should be coerced into participating in physician-assisted suicide– even in jurisdictions where it is permitted– California not only removed important safeguards from the End of Life Options Act, but also enforced mandatory participation for conscientious physicians.
In September, a federal district court issued a ruling indicating that the law was likely in violation of the First Amendment rights of religious medical professionals. As a result, the court temporarily halted the enforcement of the law while the lawsuit continued its proceedings.
As part of the settlement, the state of California agreed to not enforce “any criminal or civil punishment, including professional discipline or licensing sanction for a California-licensed physician’s refusal or failure to” take part in ending the life of a patient in any way.
This means California will no longer require doctors with religious and moral objections to participate in physician-assisted suicide. To settle the lawsuit, California will also pay $300,000 to cover the cost of the doctors’ attorneys’ fees.
“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.”
Laws permitting assisted suicide inherently undermine the intrinsic value and dignity of human life. Laws that force doctors to partake in assisted suicide go even further in violating the dignity of everyone involved. At the core of human dignity is the right to live in accordance with our deeply-held beliefs. Doctors should never be forced to violate their consciences. Thankfully, this settlement sets the record straight.