The Arizona state capitol building. (Ted Eytan, via Flickr — CC BY-SA 2.0 — filter added)

(CNA/EWTN News) — Health care providers and institutions opposed to assisted suicide gained more legal protections under a new Arizona law that aims to help ensure doctors and nurses aren’t fired for their beliefs if the practice is ever legalized.

Senate Bill 1439 was “an important rights of conscience bill,” according to the bishops of the Arizona Catholic Conference.

“S.B. 1439 will help protect health care providers not wanting to participate in services causing the death of their patients,” the state’s four bishops said March 24, adding they were grateful that it has become law.

The bill lists assisted suicide, euthanasia, or “mercy killing” as some activities that a doctor, nurse or health care entity may decline to participate in.

Bill sponsor Sen. Nancy Barto said the bill would help ensure that individuals would not lose their jobs if they have objections to these practices.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed the legislation on Friday.

The Arizona bishops’ conference said federal law already protects health care providers who decline to participate in assisted suicide or similar actions, but the bill adds state-level protections and clarifies that providers cannot face discrimination in employment.

The bill bars discrimination against state health care providers and facilities if they refuse to assist in services that result in a person’s death or if they refuse to provide items that result in a person’s death.

Assisted suicide is illegal in Arizona, though the conscience protection bill comes at a time when several other states have legalized the practice.

Arizona Catholic Conference Bishops’ Statement on Governor Ducey Signing Rights of Conscience Legislation

March 24, 2017

The Bishops of the Arizona Catholic Conference are grateful for the passage of an important rights of conscience bill (SB 1439) that was signed into law today by Governor Doug Ducey.

SB 1439 will help protect health care providers not wanting to participate in services causing the death of their patients. These protections already exist under federal law with respect to health care providers not participating in assisted suicide or similar actions. SB 1439, however, will add state level protections and clarify that these health care providers are not discriminated against in their employment.

The protections in SB 1439 are consistent with Arizona’s long held policy of respecting human life and the rights of conscience for health care providers. Accordingly, we are glad that this bill has now become law.

Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted
Bishop of Phoenix

Most Rev. Eduardo A. Nevares
Auxiliary Bishop of Phoenix

Most Rev. James S. Wall
Bishop of Gallup

Most Rev. Gerald F. Kicanas
Bishop of Tucson