Tuesday, May 23, 2023

California doctors receive a settlement in conscience rights victory.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

I reported on September 7, 2022, that U.S. District Judge Fernando Aenlle-Rocha ruled that California Senate Bill 380, which amended the End of Life Option Act (assisted suicide law) in California, violated the First Amendment rights of doctors by requiring them to participate in assisted suicide. Aenlle-Rocha granted a preliminary injunction barring the state from compelling health care providers to document a patient’s request for assisted suicide.

Last week, the California government decided not to appeal the decision and to pay $300,000 to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal non-profit group that represented the physicians in the case.

Bob Egelko reported for the San Francisco Chronicle that:

Rather than appealing Aenlle-Rocha’s ruling, state officials agreed Wednesday not to enforce the recording and referral requirements against objecting physicians, and also agreed to pay the physicians’ group $300,000 for attorneys’ fees and legal costs.
Egelko quoted Kevin Theriot of Alliance Defending Freedom as stating:
“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.”
An article by Mimi Nguyen Ly that was published by the Epoch Times concerning the September 2022 court decision explained that SB 380 required a doctor who opposes assisted suicide to document a request for assisted suicide and that request was considered the first of the two required legal requests. Therefore doctors who oppose assisted suicide were being required to participate in the assisted suicide approval process. Judge Aenlle-Rocha agreed that the law required doctors who oppose assisted suicide to participate in the law. Nguyen Ly reported:
Aenlle-Rocha noted in his ruling on Sept. 2: “The ultimate outcome of this requirement is that non-participating providers are compelled to participate in the Act through this documentation requirement, despite their objections to assisted suicide.

The judge wrote that the Christian doctors “have demonstrated they are likely to suffer a violation of a constitutional right absent an injunction,” and have established that “they are likely to succeed on their Free Speech claim” because the documentation requirement under SB 380 “exceeds merely managing medical records—it imposes an affirmative documentation requirement.”
A similar conscience rights case was recently settled in New Mexico, when the New Mexico government passed a law removing the requirement for doctors who oppose assisted suicide to participate in the assisted suicide approval process.

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