Wednesday, March 2, 2022

California doctors group launches court case for conscience rights

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

A group of California Doctors who oppose assisted suicide have launched a court case to protect their conscience rights. The California legislature passed assisted suicide expansion bill SB 380. One of the assisted suicide law expansions in SB 380 was to forcing doctors who oppose assisted suicide to be complicit in the act.

An article by Greg Piper that was published in the Ohio Star on February 28 reported:
California doctors who object to assisted suicide are fighting an amended state law that implicates them in their patients' intentional deaths.
The case concerns conscience rights for physicians who oppose assisted suicide. Piper reported:
The original law issued a broad exemption for healthcare providers, granting them a liability shield for "refusing to inform" patients about their right to physician-assisted suicide and "not referring" patients to physicians who will assist in their suicides.

The amended law removed it, leaving providers vulnerable to "civil, criminal, administrative, disciplinary, employment, credentialing, professional discipline, contractual liability, or medical staff action, sanction, or penalty or other liability."

Conscientious objectors are suffering irreparable harm to their free exercise of religion and speech, the suit claims, seeking an injunction and declaration that the law is unconstitutional under any application. California is infringing on their "right not to speak the State's message on the subject of assisted suicide."
Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, is arguing that, in SB 380, participating in assisted suicide is voluntary but that word "participating" is narrowly defined. SB 380 requires physicians who oppose assisted suicide to:
"document a patient's request to die in that individual's medical record, which satisfies the first of two required "oral requests" for a patient to obtain a prescription for lethal drugs. Physicians also must transfer those records to a second physician upon the patient's request."
Since the requirement to document an oral request is part of the assisted suicide approval process therefore doctors who oppose assisted suicide are in fact required to participate in the lethal act.

The court case also recognizes that physicians who participate in assisted suicide receive greater protections in law than physicians who oppose assisted suicide. Piper writes:
...the amended law treats physicians participating in assisted suicide more favorably than those who refuse, as the former cannot be subject to "a complaint or report of unprofessional or dishonest conduct" solely on the basis of their decision to help patients kill themselves, the lawsuit says.
Other concerns with SB 380 included:
  • Reducing the mandatory 15-day waiting period between the two oral requests to 48 hours.
  • Eliminating the original law’s sunset clause, which eliminated the requirement to review the law.

The California 2020 assisted suicide report stated that 435 people died by assisted suicide in 2020. There may be significant under-reporting of assisted suicide deaths. According to the 2020 report there were 164 people who received lethal assisted suicide drugs but their ingestion status was unknown. The report stated:

The ingestion status of the remaining 164 individuals is unknown. Of the remaining 164 individuals, 83, ... have died, but their ingestion status is unknown because follow up information is not available yet. For the remaining 81 individuals, ... both death and ingestion status are pending.
The 2020 California assisted suicide report indicated that 58 of the 150 people who received assisted suicide drugs but there ingestion status was unknown had in fact died by assisted suicide. 

A goal for the assisted suicide lobby is to force physicians who oppose assisted suicide to refer their patients to a physician who will kill.

California Governor, Gavin Newsom signed SB 380 into law on October 6, 2021.

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