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New Mexico backtracks and passes law giving religious doctors the right to refuse to participate in assisted suicide


UPDATE: In the months after a lawsuit was filed by medical professionals challenging a New Mexico law that forced them to inform their patients about the option of assisted suicide and refer them to another doctor for the purpose of receiving suicide pills that would end the patient’s life, Gov. Lujan Grisham, D, has signed a new law that allows doctors to refuse to participate because of religious reason or conscience.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) had filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA) in December 2022. On March 9, the state Senate passed a bill that would permit medical professionals to refuse to inform of euthanasia or refer patients. The state House of Representatives passed it on March 15, and the governor signed it into law on April 4.

ADF announced today that it has now filed to dismiss the lawsuit. Mark Lippelmann, senior counsel for ADF, in a statement explained,

“We commend the New Mexico Legislature and Gov. Lujan Grisham for enacting this critical law to protect health care professionals who object to assisted suicide for reasons of conscience or faith. Dr. Lacy and the thousands of other Christian medical professionals we represent believe every life is sacred and full of inherent value, and that assisted suicide ends an innocent human life without justification. The government should never force doctors to surrender their religious, moral, and ethical convictions.”

The plaintiffs also responded noting their appreciation for the legislature’s actions. Dr. Jeffrey Barrows, senior vice president of bioethics and public policy for CMDA, stated,

“As Christian health care professionals, it is our aim to serve every patient with excellence and compassion, as image-bearers of God. We strive to perform our work according to the dictates of our faith and professional ethics, including the belief that every life is precious. We’re grateful New Mexico quickly responded to our lawsuit by enacting protections for conscientious physicians.”


{Published December 15, 2022} Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has filed a lawsuit against government officials for New Mexico over the state’s assisted suicide law, claiming it violates medical providers’ right of conscience.

Quick Facts

ADF sued on behalf of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA). ADF alleges that New Mexico’s law forces doctors to choose between their religious beliefs or professional judgement and penalties.

New Mexico’s End of Life Options Act went into effect in 2021. While the law states that conscientious objectors can’t be forced to prescribe death-inducing drugs, it does require that they inform patients of options for assisted suicide and refer them to a medical provider who will prescribe the drugs.

Many of the plaintiffs say they would rather leave the medical profession than to violate their religious beliefs. They “believe that life is sacred and full of inherent value bestowed by our Creator; that physician-assisted suicide ends an innocent human life without justification; and that facilitating physician-assisted suicide in any way, including by informing patients about it and referring patients to providers who will perform it, constitutes material cooperation with the underlying act, is sinful, and violates Plaintiffs’ religious exercise.”

The suit says the law forces physicians to choose between violating the law and violating the Hippocratic Oath, which all medical professionals are required to swear:

“I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.”

It also requires physicians to ignore the American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics, which says, “[p]hysician assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”

Mark Lippelmann, senior counsel for ADF, stated

“New Mexico is unlawfully compelling physicians to speak a certain message about assisted suicide, even if they object for reasons of conscience or faith. The Christian doctors we represent believe that every life is sacred and full of inherent value, and that assisted suicide ends an innocent human life without justification. The government should not force doctors to surrender their religious, moral, and ethical convictions.”

ADF represents CMDA in a similar case in California, where a federal court issued an injunction against California’s assisted suicide law, writing, “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.”

Courts have repeatedly ruled that doctors cannot be forced to perform actions that violate their conscience, such as abortions or gender transitions. Forcing a doctor to refer someone to another medical provider who will prescribe assisted suicide drugs is forcing them to be involved in assisted suicide.

For many reasons the concept of medical aid in dying has been viewed as repugnant for centuries. Doctors must be trusted to pursue the improvement of the condition of those in their care. When assisted suicide is legalized, other motivations take hold.

At the core of assisted suicide is an attempt to usurp God as the one who decides when life ends. Psalm 139:16 says,

“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written. The days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.”

One need look no further than Canada to recognize that the slippery slope is real and that assisted suicide, once accepted, will take society into a very dark place. Canada has already expanded its Medical Aid in Dying (MAID) program such that patients need no longer have a terminal illness but can be killed if they simply have a mental illness. Rather than helping patients through their mental illness, Canadian mental health professionals can simply give up on their patients. What’s more, a joint commission of Parliament is currently considering whether to expand MAID to “mature teens.”

Already, there are too many stories of applicants and approved “candidates” for assisted suicide who instead of being “terminal” turned out to be merely tired of trying to “do life” without enough support. Once they get that help, be it medical care, housing, financial aid, or emotional resources, they quickly embrace the will to live again.

Like abortion, physician-assisted suicide is a form of eugenics that is, in the long run, intended to rid society of “inconvenient” and “unwanted” human beings. It is morally and biblically reprehensible. As Standing for Freedom Center writer William Wolfe explained,

“The God of the Bible is the God who reigns supreme over life and death. He is a God who defeated death through death so that the captives of sin might go free and embrace eternal life. The Christian faith holds out this unfading hope that must never be forgotten: No matter how hard a situation may be, God can speak and create light, He can bring life from the dead, and He can restore what seems doomed to destruction…. Societies that give up on this truth, that trade the glories of the resurrection for the satanic inversion of artfully advertised ‘death by doctor’ are sending a clear signal about their own future — which is, there may not be one.”

Religious doctors shouldn’t be forced to participate in assisted death, directly or indirectly. And in actuality, all doctors, regardless of their faith, who have taken an oath to be healers, not killers, should refuse to have anything to do with it and instead work harder to help their patients receive the care and resources they need to live comfortably and with dignity. Physician-assisted suicide, like physician-enabled abortion, has no place in an ethical, moral, and civilized society.

Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.

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