September 9, 2022

California Judge Rules Doctors Cannot be Compelled to Document Assisted Suicide Requests

On Sept. 2, US District Judge Fernando Aenlle-Rocha ruled that California cannot compel doctors to participate in assisted suicide by requiring them to document requests for assisted suicide. The ruling granted a preliminary injunction blocking the state from requiring doctors to participate in this way.

A 2021 amendment to California's 2015 assisted suicide law made it easier for patients to have doctors kill them. The original law required that two doctors verify that the patient had less than six months to live and is mentally competent to make the decision. It further required the patient to verbally request the drugs on two occasions at least 15 days apart, provide a written request, and sign a form 48 hours beforehand.

The 2021 amendment allows assisted suicide if the patient makes two verbal requests at least 48 hours apart. There are no further requirements. Therefore, a pro-life doctor who documents one of these two requests is participating in the patient's death in a significant way.

Judge Aenlle-Rocha said as much in his ruling, "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." He later continued that doctors who oppose assisted suicide "are likely to succeed on their Free Speech claim" on the basis that California's law "exceeds merely managing medical records—it imposes an affirmative documentation requirement."