Conscience freedom in healthcare bill urged

The Point

Reproduced with permission

Christian Medical and Dental Association

Excerpted from “Stand with Cathy for conscience rights,” USCCB video, November 17, 2015 – The freedom of conscience is at the heart of who we are as Americans. And federal law has long protected that freedom. But now conscience rights are under attack. And healthcare providers, whose rights have been violated, are speaking up.

Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo, RN: “On May 24, 2009, the hospital where I work coerced me to assist in a 22-week abortion. My duties as a nurse included being present for the bloody dismemberment and accounting for body parts afterwards.”

Cathy’s employer threatened her job and nursing license if she did not participate in a late-term abortion against her deeply held beliefs.

If Congress does not act, doctors and nurses across the country will be forced to violate their conscience or leave healthcare altogether.

CMDA Senior Vice President and OB/Gyn Gene Rudd, MD: “Stories like that of Ms. Cenzon-DeCarlo may seem too remote, rare and unlikely to affect your world. Think again. CMDA frequently hears similar complaints from our members. In one member survey, four in 10 members reported being pressured to act against their conscience. And one in four suffered consequences for standing their ground.

“So what should we do? Let me suggest two types of actions. First, as citizens, seek to defend our First Amendment rights. CMDA is doing that organizationally on your behalf, but your direct voice to those who represent us in Washington and state capitals is critical.

“Secondly, as followers of Christ, we should stand for what is right. When asked to violate the principles of Scripture and your Spirit-guided conscience, refuse. And we must defend our neighbors who are doing the same.

“This quote from Martin Niemöller, a German pastor during World War II, is a reminder of what is at stake if we ignore the problem:

‘First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.’”


  1. Share your own story of discrimination on CMA’s website. Click here to share your views and experience and click here to read what others are saying.
  2. Tell your lawmakers to prevent discrimination in healthcare and support the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act. [Note: it may be possible to include this legislation in an upcoming omnibus appropriations bill.]

Resources Abortion- and conscience-related legislation: CMDA’s Freedom2Care legislative action site CMDA’s Healthcare Right of Conscience Ethics Statement

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Sweden has it all – except freedom of conscience

A court has ruled that abortion rights leave no room for a midwife to be exempted.


Carolyn Moynihan*

Because of its welfare state and gender equity policies Sweden has become a beacon of progressiveness in everything that affects women. But there is one kind of woman the Scandinavian state seems to have no time for: a health professional who objects to abortion.

Two years ago Ellinor Grimmark completed a midwifery internship at Hoglandssjukhuset women’s clinic in southern Sweden, but because she told the management that she had a conscientious objection to performing abortions, she was denied further employment there. [Full Text]

Moral injury: Troops talk of how war assaults conscience

Military Times

Patricia Kime

Former Army Reserve Capt. Josh Grenard thought the anguish of losing men in
combat would eventually wane in the years after a deployment to Iraq. But when
soldiers from his unit began committing suicide, the wounds reopened — fresh,
raw and painful.

“It’s almost two sets of injuries — but having your men kill themselves is
wholly different,” Grenard said. “Was there something I could have done? Was
there a way we could have gotten them help? Should I have seen it?”

He found himself slipping into isolation, going to his law office each day
but questioning his very existence. He drank from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily —
“very metered, all day.”

“You don’t want to think about anything. You don’t want to answer those
questions,” he said.

Grenard was not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the
psychiatric condition normally associated with combat.

Rather, his feelings, which included crippling helplessness, emotional pain,
guilt and frustration, are often described as “moral injury,” a psychological
condition related to having done something wrong, being wronged by others or
even witnessing a wrongdoing, argues Georgetown University philosophy professor
Nancy Sherman. [Full Text]

Democratic bill gives doctors right of conscience to perform abortions

Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel

Jason Stein

Madison— Doctors in Wisconsin would gain a right of conscience to perform abortions, sterilizations or other procedures for their patients at certain hospitals even if those institutions didn’t wish to allow them, under long-shot legislation put forward by Democratic lawmakers Thursday.

The proposal by Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) and Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) would work as a sort of reverse to the state’s existing conscience clause, which prohibits hospitals and doctors from being required to perform abortions if they oppose them. [Full text]

What happens when a patient’s right to die and a doctor’s right to refuse collide?

Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Jonathan Charlton

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan is set to finalize a policy to guide the province’s doctors on the controversial issue of doctor assisted death.

While the Supreme Court of Canada has struck down the old law forbidding the service, the former Conservative government didn’t introduce new legislation. The new Liberal government, meanwhile, could ask for an extension to the court’s Feb. 6, 2016 deadline.

However, the College doesn’t want doctors in the province to be stranded without any guidance, hence its own policy, which could be finalized at the College’s meeting Friday.

Associate registrar Bryan Salte walked the Saskatoon StarPhoenix through the complex issue. This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity. [Full text]


Project submission re: conscientious objection policy

A bureaucracy of medical deception

 Quebec physicians told to falsify euthanasia death certificates

Regulators support coverup of euthanasia from families

Sean Murphy*

lethal-injection-002In the first week of September, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) was reported to be “seeking ‘clarity'” about whether or not physicians who perform euthanasia should misrepresent the medical cause of death, classifying death by lethal injection or infusion as death by natural causes. The question arose because the Quebec College of Physicians was said to be “considering recommending” that Quebec physicians who provide euthanasia should declare the immediate cause of death to be an underlying medical condition, not the administration of the drugs that actually kill the patient.1 In fact, the Collège des médecins du Québec and pharmacy and nursing regulators in the province had already made the decision. In August, the three regulators issued a Practice Guide directing Quebec physicians to falsify death certificates in euthanasia cases.

The physician must write as the immediate cause of death the disease or morbid condition which justified [the medical aid in dying] and caused the death. It is not a question of the manner of death (cardiac arrest), but of the disease, accident or complication that led to the death. The term medical aid in dying should not appear on this document.2

Lawyer Jean Pierre Ménard correctly observed that Quebec’s euthanasia law does not require physicians to report euthanasia on death certificates.1  M. Ménard is an expert on euthanasia law consulted by the Quebec government and the CMA,3  but he seems unaware of guidelines relevant to the classification of deaths and medico-legal death investigations. . . [Full text]

Quebec Euthanasia Guidelines

Practice guide issued by Quebec health care profession regulators


Sean Murphy*

Quebec’s Act Respecting End of Life Care (ARELC) was passed in June, 2014 and comes into effect in December, 2015.  When enacted, the  law purported to legalize euthanasia in the province, but its actual legal effect was questionable because Canadian provinces do not have jurisdiction over criminal law.  Only the Canadian federal government can make laws governing homicide and suicide.

However, in February, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in the case of Carter vs. Canada. The Court struck down the criminal prohibition of homicide and assisted suicide to the extent that it prevents the provision of physician assisted suicide and physician administered euthanasia for a certain class of patients.  The Court specified that the law cannot prevent the procedures for competent adults who are suffering intolerably as a result of a grievous and irremediable medical condition, which cannot be relieved by other means acceptable to the patient.  The declaration of invalidity was suspended for one year to allow the government time to revise the law.

The federal government under Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper took no action until mid-July, when it appointed a panel to study the issue and offer advice about legislative options.  The government was defeated in the federal election in October, and it remains unclear what direction the new Liberal government will take.

ARELC thus comes into force about two months before the Supreme Court ruling in Carter takes effect, while the criminal prohibition of euthanasia and assisted suicide is still in place.  However, the guidelines for euthanasia in ARELC are actually more restrictive than those proposed by the Supreme Court of Canada in Carter, so it seems doubtful that the federal government will challenge the Quebec law.

In August, 2015, the state regulators of the professions of medicine, pharmacy and nursing jointly issued an 88 page Medical Aid in Dying Practice Guide to direct the provision of euthanasia in Quebec.  The Guide appears to be available only in French, and is currently accessible only through a password protected portal on the Collège des médecins du Québec website, or by making an access to information request.  However, the Guide also states that it can be reproduced as long as the source is acknowledged.

What follows is a partial machine assisted English translation of the Guide set opposite the original French text.  For ease of reference, each translated segment is identified by a translation number (T#).  Only those parts of the Guide that appear to have some relevance to freedom of conscience are reproduced here.

Go to translation

Joint letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Proposed Regulation: 80 Fed. Reg. 54172 (Sept. 8, 2015).

Re: Nondiscrimination in Health Programs and Activities RIN 0945-AA02

Click image to see letter

Stand with Cathy for Conscience Rights

US Conference of Catholic Bishops

Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo, RN, was forced by her employer to participate in a late-term abortion against her deeply-held pro-life beliefs – a major violation of her conscience rights! Urge Congress to support the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act today! Go to:

Beware of assisted-suicide zealots

National Post

Will Johnston

For at least a few more months, the Canadian medical system will continue to be a safe space, free of assisted suicide and euthanasia. But all that is about to change. In order to ensure our hospitals and palliative care centres remain places where patients feel safe and secure, we must respect doctors’ conscience rights, rather than listen to activists who seek to impose their one-size-fits-all policy on the rest of us.

For instance, the palliative care centres in Quebec that refuse to have anything to do with euthanasia, for reasons of medical judgment and ethics, have apparently angered Jean-Pierre Menard, the lawyer who helped write Quebec’s euthanasia law, Bill 52. The act specifically states that palliative care centres are not required to provide euthanasia service — but maybe to Menard, those were just soothing words to get the bill passed. Now Menard says money should be taken away from palliative services that won’t provide euthanasia on their premises. And the minister of health, Gaetan Barrette, has threatened to revoke the hospital privileges of doctors who won’t comply. . . . [Full text]