The Life Legal Defense Foundation, joined by Alliance Defending Freedom, has filed a lawsuit challenging a new California law that forces doctors to participate in physician-assisted suicide. The law also abolishes safeguards, including the 15-day cooling off period before someone was able to obtain a prescription for a lethal dose of barbiturates. The new law, SB 380, shortens that time frame to 48 hours.
Under California’s original assisted suicide law, patients had to make two separate oral requests and a written request for so-called “aid-in-dying” drugs. They also had to provide a final written attestation stating they were requesting the drugs of their own free will and were aware that the drugs may not cause immediate death. SB 380 eliminates the final written attestation and allows patients to receive the drugs after two oral requests and one written request made 48 hours apart.
Physicians are no longer permitted to opt out of California’s assisted suicide scheme, even if participation in a patient’s suicide violates conscience or sincere religious beliefs. All written and oral requests for the lethal drugs must be documented in the patient’s medical record and turned over to the patient. Although non-consenting physicians are not obligated to write the prescription, they are forced under SB 380 to provide most of the documentation needed for patients to kill themselves, including a diagnosis of terminal illness and a patient’s requests for so-called “aid-in-dying” drugs. Failure to do so can result in civil and criminal penalties, as well as professional discipline.
California’s law is a violation of numerous federal provisions that protect conscience rights, include the “Church Amendments,” which ensure that individuals do not have to participate in providing “health” services that are contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions. Moreover, the Hippocratic Oath, which forms the basis for Western medical ethics, reads in part: “I will not give lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan.”
Even the California Medical Association, which supported the bill, acknowledged that it will “severely threaten the autonomy of physicians, removing a true conscious [sic] objection.”
Since California’s assisted suicide law went into effect in 2016, over 2800 people have requested lethal prescriptions and over 1800 have taken the drugs, although the state admits that it does not know the ingestion status of about 25% of people who requested the drugs.
Life Legal and Alliance Defending Freedom are representing members of the Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA) who object to physician-assisted suicide.