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Can the Government Force Citizens to Give Advice They Consider Immoral?

By Jana Minich posted on:
October 17, 2017

For health professionals in Vermont, the answer right now is “yes.”

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a request for a court order to stop a new Vermont law (Act 39) that would require health professionals to advise clients on the “benefits” of assisted suicide—even if they strongly believe that such practice is immoral and harmful. ADF’s lawsuit, filed in July, points out that Vermont is the only state that has such a requirement.

Act 39 violates doctors’ constitutional rights of speech and conscience. It also conflicts with the nondiscrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act, which explicitly protects health care providers from being coerced into involvement with assisted suicide. Act 39 needs to be blocked by the court.

Physicians, pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, and clinical social workers treat many persons with life threatening illnesses and depression. The last thing many of those health professionals want to do is tell their patients that one of their “treatment” options is to be killed. Many patients do not want to see a doctor who would suggest or think of death as a treatment.

Yet Act 39 threatens to punish any of those professionals who decline to discuss or help provide information for assisted suicide. This means that the state is forcing health professionals into expressing speech that they find morally offensive, even if the patients involved do not solicit (or even are deeply offended by) the messages promoting assisted suicide.

Act 39 is a clear violation of the First Amendment’s freedom of speech. The result is a double-loss situation—those who have dedicated their lives to healing now risk losing their licenses and their livelihood, and patients who are most vulnerable are more likely to receive unsolicited advice to kill themselves.

No health professional—or anyone for that matter—should be forced by the government to violate their deeply held moral beliefs, especially to help destroy the lives of vulnerable patients.

Medical Professionals Have the Right to Live and Work According to Their Conscience
Alliance Defending Freedom has created a free legal guide for medical professionals to outline the legal landscape for healthcare freedom of conscience. 


Jana Minich

Jana Minich

Contributing Writer

Jana is a senior Political Science student at Cedarville University and legal intern at Alliance Defending Freedom.


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