RUTLAND, Vt. – A pro-suicide group has dropped its appeal of a federal court’s decision which affirmed that a Vermont law can’t be interpreted to require pro-life health professionals to counsel or refer patients for assisted suicide. As a result, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit officially dismissed the appeal Monday, thus ending the case.
The withdrawal of the appeal by Compassion & Choices leaves in place a consent agreement between physician groups and the Vermont Attorney General’s office, which agreed that the court was correct in deciding that the state’s Act 39 does not force conscientious professionals to ensure all “terminal” patients are informed about the availability of doctor-prescribed death.
“Vermont health care workers just want to act consistently with their reasonable and time-honored convictions without fear of government punishment,” said ADF Senior Counsel Steven H Aden, who argued before the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont in November of last year in Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare v. Hoser. “Conscientious Vermont healthcare professionals are in agreement with the state that the law doesn’t force them to participate in this heinous process, and they are pleased that the nation’s foremost advocate of assisted suicide, Compassion & Choices, has abandoned its effort to force them to do so.”
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and ADF-allied attorney Michael Tierney 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.”
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, but state medical licensing authorities 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. For that reason, the groups representing pro-life health professionals filed suit.
The court ruled that the groups lacked a legal right to bring the lawsuit because the law actually doesn’t force them to act contrary to their conscience—a finding that Compassion & Choices initially opposed. The dismissal of the appeal leaves Vermont healthcare professionals free to “do no harm” without fear of retaliation for their pro-life views.