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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
Tuesday, Sep 6, 2022

LOS ANGELES – A federal district court ruled Friday that a California law likely violates the First Amendment rights of medical professionals by requiring them to participate in physician-assisted suicide against their religious convictions and professional ethics. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a doctor and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations asked the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to halt enforcement, while their lawsuit proceeds, of a state law that forces physicians to participate in assisted suicide.

“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, who argued before the court on behalf of those challenging the California law. “We’re pleased the court followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in NIFLA v. Becerra that clarified First Amendment protections extend to religious medical professionals.”

The Christian physicians “have demonstrated they are likely to suffer a violation of a constitutional right absent an injunction…,” the court wrote in its opinion in Christian Medical & Dental Associations v. Bonta. “The ultimate outcome of this requirement is that non-participating providers are compelled to participate in the Act through [even its] documentation requirement, despite their objections to assisted suicide.”

As the lawsuit ADF attorneys filed in February explains, 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.

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 4,400 attorneys in the ADF Attorney Network, is serving as local counsel in the case.

  • 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.

ABOUT Denise Harle

Denise Harle serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is the director of the Center for Life. Prior to joining ADF, Harle served as deputy solicitor general in the Office of the Florida Attorney General, where she drafted appellate briefs and presented oral arguments on behalf of the state in a wide variety of constitutional cases, including defending the constitutionality of pro-life laws. In 2017, she participated in the prestigious Supreme Court Fellow program, sponsored by the National Association of Attorneys General. She clerked for Justice Ricky L. Polston on the Florida Supreme Court and worked for several years as an appellate litigator at a large firm in California. Harle earned bachelor’s degrees, summa cum laude, in psychology and interdisciplinary social science from Florida State University, a master’s degree in political science from Stanford University, and a Juris Doctor from Duke University School of Law. At Duke, she served as the executive editor of Law & Contemporary Problems. A member of the state bars of California, Florida, and Georgia, she is admitted to multiple federal district and appellate courts, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.