– Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys asked a federal court Monday to stop Vermont officials in two state agencies from forcing conscientious health care professionals to help kill their patients while the lawsuit
of those professionals proceeds. ADF attorneys and an allied attorney represent the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and the Christian Medical and Dental Association, groups of medical professionals who wish to abide by their oath to “do no harm.”
The state agencies, the Board of Medical Practice and the Office of Professional Regulation, are reading the state’s assisted suicide law to require health care professionals, regardless of their conscience or oath, to counsel patients on doctor-prescribed death as an option. Although Act 39, Vermont’s assisted suicide bill, passed with a very limited protection for attending physicians who don’t wish to dispense death-inducing drugs themselves, state medical licensing authorities have construed a separate, existing mandate to counsel and refer for “all options” for palliative care to include a mandate that all patients hear about the “option” of assisted suicide.
“The government shouldn’t be telling health care professionals that they must violate their medical ethics in order to practice medicine,” said ADF Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden. “Because the state has no authority to order them to act contrary to that sincere and time-honored conviction, we are asking the court to ensure that no state agency is able to do that while this lawsuit moves forward.”
As the brief in support of the requested motion for preliminary injunction
in Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare v. Hoser
explains, “Vermont’s Act 39 makes the State the first and only one to mandate that all licensed healthcare professionals counsel terminal patients about the availability and procedures for physician-assisted suicide, and refer them to willing prescribers to dispense the death-dealing drug. Act 39 coerces professionals to counsel patients about the ‘benefits’ of assisted suicide—benefits that Plaintiffs’ members do not believe exist—and in addition stands in opposition to a federal law protecting healthcare professionals who cannot participate in assisted suicide for conscientious reasons.”
“Because Plaintiffs’ attempts to repeal or amend the law have proven futile, and enforcement is imminent,” the brief continues, “Plaintiffs…[ask] for a preliminary injunction enjoining Defendants from enforcing the provisions of Act 39…and its incorporated statutes…against their members for declining to counsel or refer patients diagnosed with ‘terminal conditions’ on the availability of physician-assisted suicide.”
Michael Tierney, one of nearly 3,100 private attorneys allied with ADF, is co-counsel in the case, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont.
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.