Repealing "right of conscience" excuses

Now that the Obama administration is about to repeal the "right of conscience" rule, which was a thinly veiled last-minute attempt by the Bush administration to withhold healthcare in abortion and birth control and so broadly worded so as to sidestep controversy over reproductive healthcare (not that it worked), I hope they don't get cold feet. Certain religious groups are now trying to convince the Obama administration not to repeal the rule.

If the rule doesn't get repealed, I fear we will see ridiculous cases like a doctor letting a woman in his care die for lack of CPR because "it's against his religious beliefs to touch women". This might be an extreme example, but it's not as if similar things are not already happening. And a broad right of conscience rule for healthcare means that there would be no consequences for withholding healthcare when it should be reasonably expected, even in life-threatening situations.

3 Replies to “Repealing "right of conscience" excuses”

  1. This is a pretty gray area I think. Maybe grayer than we admit sometimes. We know that clinicians must provide care for patients and should not allow their personal feelings to interfere and the extreme examples you cite help to demonstrate why. But based upon our conversations about the other extreme - such as clinicians assisting with torture (not directly but through maintaining the patient during the process) we also know that there are limits to what clinicians should do. There are thousands of examples throughout history where we might have wished someone had invoked some right of conscience. The tough part is deciding where exactly should that line be. Further complicating the conversation are the rights of employers. If pharmacists for example, could chose to not fill BCP prescriptions, would employers be prohibited from asking about their stand prior to hiring if the company held an opposing view? It's not an easy problem.

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