By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
U.S. District Judge Fernando Aenlle-Rocha for the Central District of California ruled that California Senate Bill 380, which passed last year to amend the End of Life Option Act that legalized assisted suicide in California, violates the First Amendment rights of doctors by requiring them to participate in assisted suicide.
Aenlle-Rocha also granted a preliminary injunction barring the state from compelling health care providers to document a patient’s request for assisted suicide.
The original 2015 law allowed a patient to receive drugs to end their life if two doctors certify that the patient has six or fewer months to life and is mentally competent to make the decision, and if the patient has verbally requested the life-ending drugs on two occasions at least 15 days apart, as well as later providing a written request and confirming their intention to die by signing a form 48 hours before self-ingesting the life-ending drugs.
SB 380 allowed patients to make the two verbal requests for the life-ending drugs at least 48 hours apart—that is, 2 days instead of 15 days—and eliminated the written request and the final attestation.
The Judge 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.”
The case has not ended, but this decision is a great victory for conscience rights. Judge Aenlle-Rocha recognized that SB 380 violated the rights of physicians who oppose assisted suicide and he granted an injunction to prevent the egregious parts of the law from forcing physicians to participate in assisted suicide.
Last April a California federal judge also rejected a case designed to permit euthanasia within California’s assisted suicide act. Lonny Shavelson, a doctor that solely focuses on assisted suicide, and Sandra Morris, who lives with ALS, argued that the state’s assisted suicide law discriminated against people who had difficulty self-ingesting the lethal assisted suicide drugs. To remedy the situation the state needed to permit euthanasia (lethal injection) in those cases.
Maria Dinzeo reported on June 22 for the Court House News Service that
A federal judge said he cannot allow an Americans with Disabilities Act carveout to California’s assisted suicide law that would let doctors assist people too weak or disabled to ingest end-of-life medication, finding that such a provision would “fundamentally alter” the law from conferring the ability to take your own life to having a doctor do it for you.
In the past few months a judge refused to permit euthanasia as part of the California assisted suicide law and another judge agreed that forcing physicians who oppose assisted suicide to participate in the act is a violation of their rights.
Editor’s note. This appeared on the blog of Alex Schadenberg and is reposted with permission.