19 State Attorneys General Declare Opposition to HHS’ Proposed Conscientious Objection Rule

New York Law Journal

Kristen Rasmu

A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed rule that would more vigorously protect health care providers’ ability to deny coverage in certain circumstances because of moral or religious beliefs should be withdrawn, according to a coalition of state attorneys general.

The proposed rule would strengthen the enforcement of existing regulations that allow providers to invoke conscientious objections as a basis for refusing to provide care that involves certain medical issues, including abortion, sterilization, assisted suicide and others. It also would allow individual providers to object to informing patients about their medical options or referring them to providers of those options. . . [Full Text]

On Medical Conscience and Assisted Suicide, Good News from Vermont and Maine

Evolution News & Science Today

Wesley J. Smith

With the attacks on medical conscience increasing, here’s some fine news. Alliance Defending Freedom has successfully obtained a consent decree that protects doctors in Vermont from having to counsel about assisted suicide to legally qualified patients if they are morally or religiously opposed. From the decree:

Plaintiffs and similarly situated medical providers do not have a legal or professional obligation to counsel and refer patients for the Patient Choice at End of Life process [e.g., assisted suicide].

That’s good. . . [Full text]

 

Victory for Vermont health professionals after pro-suicide group drops appeal

Compassion & Choices withdraws appeal of court decision that affirmed pro-life physician groups aren’t mandated to counsel, refer for assisted suicide

News Release

Alliance Defending Freedom

RUTLAND, Vt. – A pro-suicide group has dropped its appeal of a federal court’s decision which affirmed that a Vermont law can’t be interpreted to require pro-life health professionals to counsel or refer patients for assisted suicide. As a result, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit officially dismissed the appeal Monday, thus ending the case.

The withdrawal of the appeal by Compassion & Choices leaves in place a consent agreement between physician groups and the Vermont Attorney General’s office, which agreed that the court was correct in deciding that the state’s Act 39 does not force conscientious professionals to ensure all “terminal” patients are informed about the availability of doctor-prescribed death.

“Vermont health care workers just want to act consistently with their reasonable and time-honored convictions without fear of government punishment,” said ADF Senior Counsel Steven H Aden, who argued before the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont in November of last year in Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare v. Hoser. “Conscientious Vermont healthcare professionals are in agreement with the state that the law doesn’t force them to participate in this heinous process, and they are pleased that the nation’s foremost advocate of assisted suicide, Compassion & Choices, has abandoned its effort to force them to do so.”

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and ADF-allied attorney Michael Tierney represent the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and the Christian Medical and Dental Association, groups of medical professionals who wish to abide by their oath to “do no harm.”

Act 39, Vermont’s assisted suicide bill, passed with a very limited protection for attending physicians who don’t wish to dispense death-inducing drugs themselves, but state medical licensing authorities construed a separate, existing mandate to counsel and refer for “all options” for palliative care to include a mandate that all patients hear about the “option” of assisted suicide. For that reason, the groups representing pro-life health professionals filed suit.

The court ruled that the groups lacked a legal right to bring the lawsuit because the law actually doesn’t force them to act contrary to their conscience—a finding that Compassion & Choices initially opposed. The dismissal of the appeal leaves Vermont healthcare professionals free to “do no harm” without fear of retaliation for their pro-life views.


Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

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Additional resources: Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare v. Hoser

Scroll down to view additional resources pertaining to this case and its surrounding issue.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Previous news releases:

  • 2017-04-05: Vt. health professionals planning next legal steps after decision on conscientious objection to providing suicide info
  • 2016-11-07: Health professionals to court: Don’t allow Vermont to force us to help kill patients
  • 2016-09-26: Health professionals ask court to stop Vermont from forcing them to help kill patients
  • 2016-07-20: Vermont health professionals: Don’t force us to help kill our patients

 

New England Journal of Medicine publishes “attack on medical conscience”

Pro-Lifers: Get Out of Medicine!

First Things

Wesley J. Smith

Doctors in the United States cannot be forced to perform abortions or assist suicides. But that may soon change. Bioethicists and other medical elites have launched a frontal assault against doctors seeking to practice their professions under the values established by the Hippocratic Oath. The campaign’s goal? To force doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others in the health field who hold pro-life or orthodox religious views to choose between their careers and their convictions.

Ethics opinions, legislation, and court filings seeking to deny “medical conscience” have proliferated as journals, legislative bodies, and the courts have taken up the cause. In the last year, these efforts have moved from the relative hinterlands of professional discussions into the center of establishment medical discourse. Most recently, preeminent bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel—one of Obamacare’s principal architects—coauthored with Ronit Y. Stahl an attack on medical conscience in the New England Journal of Medicine, perhaps the world’s most prestigious medical journal. When advocacy of this kind is published by the NEJM, it is time to sound the air raid sirens. . . [Full text]

 

Health professionals to court: Don’t allow Vermont to force us to help kill patients

 News Release

Alliance Defending Freedom

RUTLAND, Vt. – Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden and ADF-allied attorney Michael Tierney will be available for media interviews Tuesday following a federal court hearing in a health care professionals’ lawsuit against Vermont officials in two state agencies. The medical professionals are asking the court to stop those agencies from forcing physicians and other health care workers to help kill their patients while their lawsuit proceeds and are asking the court to reject the agencies’ request to dismiss the lawsuit.

ADF attorneys and Tierney represent the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and the Christian Medical and Dental Association, groups of medical professionals who wish to abide by their oath to “do no harm.”

“The government shouldn’t be telling health care professionals that they must violate foundational medical ethics in order to practice medicine,” said Aden, who will argue before the court Tuesday. “Because the state has no authority to order them to act contrary to that reasonable and time-honored conviction, we are asking the court to allow this lawsuit to proceed and to ensure that no state agency is able to force them to violate their ethics while this lawsuit moves forward.”

The state agencies, the Board of Medical Practice and the Office of Professional Regulation, are reading the state’s assisted suicide law to require health care professionals, regardless of their conscience or oath, to counsel patients on doctor-prescribed death as an option. Although Act 39, Vermont’s assisted suicide bill, passed with a very limited protection for attending physicians who don’t wish to dispense death-inducing drugs themselves, state medical licensing authorities have construed a separate, existing mandate to counsel and refer for “all options” for palliative care to include a mandate that all patients hear about the “option” of assisted suicide.

As the brief in support of the requested motion for preliminary injunction in Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare v. Hoser explains, “Vermont’s Act 39 makes the State the first and only one to mandate that all licensed healthcare professionals counsel terminal patients about the availability and procedures for physician-assisted suicide, and refer them to willing prescribers to dispense the death-dealing drug. Act 39 coerces professionals to counsel patients about the ‘benefits’ of assisted suicide—benefits that Plaintiffs’ members do not believe exist—and in addition stands in opposition to a federal law protecting healthcare professionals who cannot participate in assisted suicide for conscientious reasons.”

“Because Plaintiffs’ attempts to repeal or amend the law have proven futile, and enforcement is imminent,” the brief continues, “Plaintiffs…[ask] for a preliminary injunction enjoining Defendants from enforcing the provisions of Act 39…and its incorporated statutes…against their members for declining to counsel or refer patients diagnosed with ‘terminal conditions’ on the availability of physician-assisted suicide.”


Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

 

Dying Dutch: Euthanasia Spreads Across Europe

Newsweek

Winston Ross

In one of the last photographs my family took of my grandmother, she looks as if she’s been in a fistfight. Jean Bass Tinsley is lying in a hospital bed in Athens, Georgia, wearing a turquoise button-up shirt and staring blankly at the camera. A bandage obscures her fractured skull, along with the bridge of her bloodied nose. She is 91 years old.

My grandmother essentially did this to herself. In June 2013, she fell out of her wheelchair headfirst, after ignoring her caregivers’ warnings not to get out of bed without help. Earlier that year, she’d broken both of her hips, in separate falls. Before that, her pelvis-all while trying to do what for most of her life she’d managed just fine on her own: walk.

In her last year, dementia crept into my grandmother’s mind. The staff at her long-term-care facility plotted ways to protect her from herself. It’s against the law in Georgia to restrain patients in such facilities, so they lowered her bed to the floor and put a pad down next to it. They even installed an alarm that went off if she left her mattress. My grandmother disabled the alarm, moved the pad and freed herself, repeatedly. In the end, she was both too weak and too strong. [Full text]

 

Vermont: An act relating to patient choice and control at end of life

The following is the protection of conscience provision found in an assisted suicide
law.  There is limited protection provided for health care  facilities, which can prohibit their physicians from prescribing lethal medications for residents who wish to use them on their premises, but not from prescribing them for those who intend to use them elsehwere. [Protection of conscience provision]