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Christian Medical & Dental Associations v. Bonta

Description:  A Christian physician and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations are suing the state of California after it enacted a law that requires doctors to participate in physician-assisted suicide against their religious convictions and professional ethics.

An elderly patient's hands
Wednesday, May 17, 2023

LOS ANGELES – In a victory for religious medical professionals, the state of California will no longer force doctors to participate in physician-assisted suicide against their religious convictions and professional ethics. To settle a lawsuit brought by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a doctor and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, California has also agreed to pay $300,000 toward the doctors’ attorneys’ fees and costs.

As part of the settlement, California state officials 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” document a request, refer, or assist a patient in any way with ending his life.

“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.”

ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, Christian Medical & Dental Associations v. Bonta, in February 2022 after California enacted a law that required doctors to participate in physician-assisted suicide against their religious convictions and professional ethics. The lawsuit explains that California legalized physician-assisted suicide in 2015 with its passage of the controversial End of Life Options Act. Then, despite the medical-ethics consensus that no physician should be forced to participate in physician-assisted suicide even where the practice is allowed, California legislated to not only eliminate important safeguards from the End of Life Options Act, but also force conscientious physicians to participate in the process.

In September, a federal district court ruled that the law likely violated the First Amendment rights of religious medical professionals and halted enforcement of the law while the lawsuit proceeded.

As part of the settlement, the parties agreed to a stipulated judgment that was entered Wednesday by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

CMDA is a national association of conscientious Christian health care professionals whose personal religious convictions and professional ethics oppose the practice of assisted suicide. Dr. Leslee Cochrane, a member of CMDA, is a California-licensed physician who joined the lawsuit.

Catherine Short of Life Legal Defense Foundation, one of more than 4,700 attorneys in the ADF Attorney Network, is serving as local counsel in the case.

Last month, ADF attorneys favorably settled a similar case in New Mexico on behalf of CMDA and a Christian doctor in Lacy v. Torrez.

  • Pronunciation guide: Theriot (TAIR’-ee-oh)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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ABOUT Kevin Theriot

Kevin Theriot serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he is a key member of the Center for Life Team working to defend pro-life laws and speech and protect medical rights of conscience. He has litigated cases in the areas of religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family. Theriot is admitted to the bar in eight states, the U.S. Supreme Court, and numerous other federal courts of appeal and district courts. Theriot received his law degree from Vanderbilt University and has been litigating First Amendment issues since 1993.