Friday, December 19, 2008

Bush's 'Right of Conscience' rule is unconscionable

By LindaBethBoldWell, the threatened "right of conscience" regulation was pushed through by President Bush on Thursday as a "midnight regulation." This regulation would allow anyone to refuse to participate in medical procedures they feel goes against their religious beliefs. "Employees" are defined broadly: from the pharmacist filling a prescription for antibiotics to a cashier refusing to ring out oral contraceptives, to the one who cleans the surgical tools after a procedure involving a blood transfusion. From The Washington Post:

The far-reaching regulation cuts off federal funding for any state or local government, hospital, health plan, clinic or other entity that does not accommodate doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other employees who refuse to participate in care they find ethically, morally or religiously objectionable.

The regulation is clearly targeted toward providing a way for medical professionals to opt out of performing or assisting in abortion procedures and prescribing and dispensing the "Morning after Pill." But this isn't *just* an issue of reproductive rights, as if that weren't reason enough to be outraged. Refusing AIDS treatment to unmarried or gay patients, refusing blood transfusions to patients (Jehovah's Witnesses), refusing to treat mental illness with anything but prayer (Christian Scientists) are possibilities as well.

In calling for limits on “conscientious refusals,” ACOG cited four recent examples. In Texas, a pharmacist rejected a rape victim's prescription for emergency contraception. In Virginia, a 42-year-old mother of two became pregnant after being refused emergency contraception. In California, a physician refused to perform artificial insemination for a lesbian couple. (In August, the California Supreme Court ruled that this refusal amounted to illegal discrimination based on sexual orientation.) And in Nebraska, a 19-year-old with a life-threatening embolism was refused an early abortion at a religiously affiliated hospital.

And from Medical News Today:

Supporters of the proposal said it will protect doctors who do not wish to perform abortions or provide birth control to unmarried women, or perform artificial insemination procedures.

This clearly isn't even about the moral objection to a procedure (such as abortion, birth control, blood transfusions, sex change operations, etc.), which is outrageous enough; but a person who has made life choices with which a medical professional disagrees can essentially be refused treatment. My question is, if one finds the practices of one's profession so objectionable, should you be working in that profession? RA Charo "criticizes those medical professionals who would claim 'an unfettered right to personal autonomy while holding monopolistic control over a public good'" (quoted in the New England Journal of Medicine). There are many jobs or professions I will not work because of ethical objections. For starters, Wal-mart.

But what's most insidious (as if it all weren't), is that the vaguely worded regulation could be stretched to include those not directly involved in the medical procedures (such as equipment cleaners), or those making appointments or ringing customers out for medical procedures or products they disagree with or disagree with their application. As if American sex education isn't fucked up enough as it is, can you picture a Christian refusing to see condoms to a teenager?

Interestingly, that report also defines "conscience" as:

"the private, constant, ethically attuned part of the human character. It operates as an internal sanction that comes into play through critical reflection about a certain action or inaction. An appeal to conscience would express a sentiment such as 'If I were to do 'x,' I could not live with myself/I would hate myself/I wouldn't be able to sleep at night.'"

Oh, the irony of Bush acting on behalf of those who wish to act "conscionably" and being able to live with one's actions from his administration that has been anything but.

Further, I myself feel it is morally unconscionable that we don't have universal health care and that corporate CEOs make 250 times what average workers make. Does this mean I get to stop paying taxes?

(Cross-posted to Speak Truth to Power)

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  • As with other of Bush's moral pronouncements, this midnight reg. amounts to a finger in the eye of people who disagree.
    Remember, this is the same man who sanctioned torture to a point just short of death. Save me from his compassion for providers' tortured consciences!
    Good post.

    By Blogger Carol Gee, at 5:52 AM  

  • Lets think about this……………
    December 19, 2008 by mbspringer133

    The Bush administration announced its “conscience protection” rule for the health care industry yesterday, giving everyone including doctors, hospitals, receptionists and volunteers in medical experiments the right to refuse to participate in medical care they find morally objectionable.

    Now heres the clincher……………………

    The right-to-refuse rule includes abortion, but Leavitt’s office said it extends to other aspects of health care where moral concerns could arise, including birth control, emergency contraception, in vitro fertilization, stem cell research or assisted suicide.

    Now lets say a doctor who believes in assisted suicide lets it be known in some subtle way. What if old uncle fred knows this and insists on being taken to this doctor knowing that the doctor will not try very hard to keep him alive because it goes against his conscience? Pretty soon all the elderly who want to die will be going to this doctor who can defend his actions on moral grounds.

    Now lets say that there is a doctor who is not crazy about the police. A wounded officer is rushed to the hospital and the doctor refuses treatment on moral grounds.

    Lets say that there is a Vietnamese or Iraqi doctor on the night shift at a major hospital, and some decorated veteran who has had his picture in the paper arrive for an emergency procedure with only minutes to live. The doctor refuses treatment on moral grounds.

    Lets say that anyone who has had their picture in the paper or the court report is rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment with only minutes to live. The doctor in attendance has seen their picture in the paper or read the court report and refuses treatment on moral grounds.

    Lets say a doctor is not very good, bottom of the class, drunk, whatever , and the patient dies. Can the doctor claim that their behaviour was actually the result of a moral decision so as to avoid a malpractice suit?


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:28 AM  

  • Maybe when doctors decide to be morally opposed to paying taxes someone will think about this.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 10:57 AM  

  • This is much ado about nothing. This new rule pretty much reiterates existing rules which have been in existence for decades (Church rules and Weldon rules) and already provide protection to health care workers in certain conscience-provoking circumstances.

    Take a few minutes and read the entire rule on the Dept. of Health & Human Services before you get your knickers in a wad!

    By Blogger mydaughters`dad, at 7:48 PM  

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