McDonald v. Lawson

Compassion & Choices Weighs In on Physician Transparency Case

Amicus; submitted February 9, 2023

In an amicus brief* submitted to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Compassion & Choices (C&C) argued that the State should be allowed to make reasonable laws requiring healthcare providers to give people neutral and truthful information regarding their healthcare options, including end-of-life options. The case, McDonald v. Lawson, concerns a California regulation, AB 2098, that states it is unprofessional conduct for a physician or surgeon to disseminate misinformation or disinformation related to COVID-19 when treating a patient. The case is being challenged by two doctors who argue that the State’s attempt to limit disinformation about COVID-19 violates their First Amendment rights of free speech.

While C&C submitted a neutral amicus and did not take a position in McDonald for or against plaintiffs, we weighed in because a ruling in McDonald could impair a state’s ability to pass laws that ensure patients are receiving quality care consistent with their fully informed treatment decisions. Specifically, C&C is concerned that a decision in this case could limit end-of-life disclosure requirements in long-term care facilities and hospices, or provisions in medical aid-in-dying laws that require both participating and non-participating physicians alike to provide patients with truthful information and a complete and accurate medical record. 

In October 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill repealing AB 2098. In February 2024, the Ninth Circuit ruled that California’s repeal of the bill rendered the challenge moot and dismissed the case without reaching the underlying merits of the claim.

Compassion & Choices is committed to ensuring patients have access to quality care and the full range of options at the end of life. To learn more about our legal advocacy work, please visit our Legal Advocacy webpage.

*Amicus curiae is Latin for “friend of the court.” Amicus briefs are commonly submitted by anyone wanting to make a point relating to a court case that the litigating parties are not addressing.

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