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All articles found in the archive are more than three years old.


The purpose of this blog is to stimulate thought and discussion about important issues in healthcare. Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily express the views of CMDA. We encourage you to join the conversation on our website and share your experience, insight and expertise. CMDA has a rigorous and representative process in formulating official positions, which are largely limited to bioethical areas.

The Court of Last Resort

July 28, 2016

by David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics)

Though I have two in my extended family, I never wanted to be a lawyer. But I admit, I have desired more legal knowledge over the last few months as CMDA has taken legal action as a last resort to deal with threats to our members and our patients.

We took this last recourse in California where many say, “as California goes, ultimately, the country goes.” There is a good bit of truth in that statement. California is our largest state with a population of 40 million and has significant influence across the country. That is why CMDA and other groups have fought so vigorously for more than 15 years to thwart attempts to legalize physician-assisted suicide in California. I’ve personally crisscrossed the state many times warning about legalizing death on demand and its danger to patients, their families, healthcare professionals and society. On one trip, I spoke 28 times in four and a half days to healthcare professionals, legislators, churches and the media. For many years these efforts were successful.

Emboldened by Brittany Maynard’s story, Compassion & Choices executed a full court press in a “let’s break all the rules to win” campaign in the legislature last summer. Their legalization initiative had been defeated during the regular legislative session, but Governor Jerry Brown called a special session to deal with the state’s precarious finances. According to California law, the only thing that can be discussed or voted on in a special session is the one issue the sessions was called to deal with, so those in opposition to physician-assisted suicide had their guard down. With backdoor maneuvering, Compassion & Choices bypassed committee obstructions, got the issue to the floor anyway and the vote passed.

So CMDA is party to a suit based on the fact that the vote was illegal and thus void. We are hoping to get an injunction.

For some, it might be too late. Dr. Lonny Shavelson, a retired emergency room physician, opened an office in his backyard in Berkley a few days before the law took effect on June 9. His practice is called “Bay Area End of Life Options.” A long-time advocate of physician-assisted suicide, he will provide death on demand to those refused “help” by their own physicians. What is your life worth if you are terminally ill? Well, we have an answer. It’s $2,000 at this Doctor Death’s one stop shop. Suicide is the only service this practice offers.

He doesn’t lack experience. Long before physician-assisted suicide was legalized in California, he was present when five patients killed themselves. He simply watched as an elderly man struggled as his sister suffocated him with a pillow. He dispassionately related that story and his personal philosophy in his book Forced Exit: Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide, and the New Duty to Die.

Across the country, CMDA and some of our individual members in Vermont are working with the Alliance Defending Freedom and have brought a suit against the Vermont Board of Medical Practice and the Office of Professional Regulation, due their recent move to force conscientious doctors and other clinicians to counsel their patients for physician-assisted suicide or to refer that patient to a physician who will. This makes them morally culpable in the death of that patient if they obtain a lethal prescription and then kill themselves.

I don’t like suing. If fact, we require mediation and arbitration rather than going to court in all of our contracts, but in these instances we have no other option to protect Christian healthcare professionals’ right of conscience and religious freedom.

Have you noticed? On ethical and even some medical issues, it is demanded first that the intolerable be allowed. Then it must be endorsed as good and finally participation is demanded. When truth and even common sense is ignored, the only option is coercion and intimidation to force people to comply. It is demanded that you act as if the emperor is clothed, even when he is walking down the street naked or you will lose your head.

The court is the last resort, but in this day or time there is less and less chance that even the court will render a verdict on the clear meaning of the law rather than the judge’s own political biases. All the same, Christian healthcare professionals must stand for righteousness, no matter the cost.

David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics)

David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics)

Dr. David Stevens, MD (Ethics), author of Jesus, MD, Beyond Medicine and co-author of Leadership Proverbs and Servant Leadership and serves as CEO Emeritus of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), a national organization of Christian healthcare professionals that seeks to change hearts in healthcare. As untold thousands of people who have heard him preach could attest, Dave Stevens is a gifted storyteller and a powerful Christian communicator with a passion for evangelism and a deep understanding and respect for the integrity of God’s Word.

As the son of an itinerant Methodist evangelist who, like John Wesley himself, truly saw the world as his parish, Dave comes by his speaking skills honestly. He’s honed his talent over the years in an incredible variety of settings. Whether he’s recruiting tribal leaders to provide volunteer support for a community health initiative in rural Kenya, preaching at American mega-church missions conferences, testifying before a panel of Washington politicians on Capitol Hill or challenging an auditorium full of healthcare professionals to better integrate their personal faith with their professional practice, Dave knows how to hook and hold an audience. While always unashamedly Christian in terms of his convictions and values, Dave can hold his own in non-Christian and even decidedly anti-Christian settings. His ability to clearly communicate difficult spiritual truths, foundational biblical values, scientific facts and thorny bioethical issues gives him an authoritative voice to speak out frequently on behalf of the American Christian healthcare community. It’s also enabled him to initiate and lead a program that has trained thousands of Christian healthcare professionals how to use, but not abuse, their authority to be and offer spiritual light and salt in a world where so many patients need more than physical healing.

As a leading, trusted spokesman for Christian healthcare professionals, Dr. Stevens has conducted thousands of media interviews, including JAMA, USA Today, Newsweek, NBC's Today Show, NBC Nightly News, BBC-World Television, CNN and National Public Radio. He has also appeared on FOX Family Channel, PAX-Television, Tech TV, The Odyssey Channel, America's Health Network and many other national outlets. He has written numerous book chapters and magazine articles. Prior to authoring his first book, he wrote a regular health column for the Promise Keepers' New Man magazine and served on the editorial board of Christian Single magazine.

Dr. Stevens is also heard as host of the CMDA Healthwise Public Service Announcements, which address general health and bioethical issues. CMDA members hear him as the host of the popular Christian Doctor’s Digest audio magazine, which has featured national leaders such as Kay Arthur, John Stonestreet, Jim Cymbala, Newt Gingrich and Luis Lugo.

Dr. Stevens holds degrees from Asbury College and the University of Louisville School of Medicine and is board certified in family medicine. He earned a master’s degree in bioethics from Trinity International University in 2002 and has served on the boards of Asbury University and World Gospel Mission. He is a fellow of the Biotechnology Policy Council of the Wilberforce Forum and helped found the National Embryo Donation Center. Dr. Stevens and his wife Jody have a son, Jason, and two daughters, Jessica and Stacy, and 10 grandchildren, all of who are involved in domestic or international healthcare ministry.