At a Glance:

Compassion & Choices filed a motion to intervene on May 18, 2022 in a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Senate Bill 380–the recently amended California End of Life Option Act. Opponents filed a lawsuit challenging California’s medical aid-in-dying law on February 22, 2022, arguing that they are forced to participate in the practice of medical aid in dying.

Compassion & Choices intervened to defend against any attempt by Plaintiffs to block access to the End of Life Option Act, which is wholly voluntary for physicians and patients alike. The motion to intervene was filed on behalf of the bill’s sponsor, a terminally-ill patient, and physicians who participate in the practice of medical aid in dying. Each intervenor provides critical perspectives and interests previously missing in the lawsuit. 

The Details:

The Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), along with one of its physician members, Dr. Leslee Cochrane, filed a lawsuit against the California Attorney General Rob Bonta and other state officials seeking to invalidate key provisions of the recently amended medical aid-in-dying law, Senate Bill 380, in California federal district court on Feb. 22, 2022. Plaintiffs are represented by Alliance Defending Freedom and the Life Liberty Defense Foundation– organizations who have previously filed cases unsuccessfully challenging the constitutionality of medical aid in dying in various authorized jurisdictions, including Ahn v. Hestrin, which was dismissed in November 2021

Plaintiffs erroneously argue that the amended California End of Life Option Act forces them to participate in medical aid in dying and therefore violates their First Amendment rights of free exercise and free speech and their Fourteenth Amendment rights of due process and equal protection. However, every aspect of medical aid in dying is voluntary, including physician participation. Non-participating physicians must merely abide by their professional obligations and meet the minimum standards of medical care by: (1) informing their patients they do not participate in medical aid in dying, (2) charting the patient’s request, as well as the physician’s objection, in the patient’s medical record, and (3) transferring the patient’s medical record upon request.

Plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on March 24, 2022. If granted, this injunction would impede access to medical aid in dying for terminally ill patients while the case was being litigated, with litigation potentially stretching on for years.

On May 18, 2022, Compassion & Choices, with the assistance of O’Melveny and Myers, filed its motion to intervene on behalf of:

  • Compassion & Choices Action Network, sister network to Compassion & Choices and sponsor of SB 380
  • Andrew Flack, a 34-year old with terminal cancer and an unfilled prescription for medical aid in dying
  • Dr. Chandana Banerjee, a hospice and palliative care doctor in California and Board Member of Compassion & Choices
  • Dr. Catherine Sonquist Forest, a family medicine doctor in California whose husband Will accessed the End of Life Option Act to peacefully end his suffering from a rapidly-progressing motor neuron disease.
Compassion & Choices is intervening to block any attempt to disrupt access to California’s medical aid-in-dying law. This page will be updated as litigation progresses.