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Protection of Conscience Project

Service, not Servitude
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April-June, 2005


30 June, 2005
British Medical Association no longer opposes assisted suicide and euthanasia

The British Medical Association voted to accept legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia, on the condition that the law include "robust safeguards both for patients and doctors who do not wish to be involved in such procedures." At the same conference, members voted against a motion to reduce the legal time limit for abortion to 20 weeks. The drafting of "robust safeguards" to protect physicians will be of considerable importance if assisted suicide and euthanasia are legalized. A "conscience clause" included in the British abortion law has not prevented discrimination against conscientious objectors. (See Access to Appointments: The Effect of Discrimination on Careers; Question of Conscience)

27 June, 2005
Christian Medical Association protests attack by AMA on freedom of Conscience

Responding to a resolution passed by the American Medical Association demanding that pharmacists fill prescriptions despite their conscientious convictions, the Christian Medical Association issued a news release in which Executive Director Gene Rudd, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist, warned against "a wholesale movement to deny healthcare professionals the right to follow their own consciences, especially in matters regarding reproduction."

24 June, 2005
Canadian assisted suicide bill includes no protection of conscience provision

Bill C-407, which would legalize assisted suicide in Canada, includes no protection for health care professionals who do not wish to facilitate the procedure. The private member's bill was introduced by Bloc Québécois MP Francine Lalonde. When abortion was legalized in Canada in 1969 the government refused to entertain protection of conscience measures, as a result of which health care workers who object to the procedure have frequently faced coercion and discrimination (See Protection of Conscience: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow )

19 June, 2005
Resolutions to British Medical Association involve contentious issues

A junior members' forum of the British Medical Association has voted to lower the upper time limit for abortion, and four motions from physicians' groups to the same effect will be debated at the BMA's annual conference. The suggestion that the upper limit should be lowered contrasts with that of others, who have suggested that treatment should be withheld from babies born at less than 24 weeks gestation ( See Treatment may be denied premature babies).Also to be considered is a motion that the BMA should support physician-assisted suicide.[The Times of London and The Daily Mail, 19 June, 2005]

18 June, 2005
Conscientious objectors file suit against California

An attempt by the Attorney General of California to overturn federal protection of conscience legislation is being opposed by the Christian Legal Society and Alliance Defense Fund. The California Attorney General filed suit against the US Government after the Hyde-Weldon amendment was passed because denies federal funding to states that force health care providers to participate in abortion, in violation of their conscientious convictions. The CLS and ADF are acting for the Christian Medical Association; the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists; and the Fellowship of Christian Physicians Assistants. (WordNetDaily)

14 June, 2005
Protection of conscience bill passes Wisconsin State Assembly

Assembly Bill 207 passed the Wisconsin State Assembly by a vote of 60 to 33. It must pass the Senate before being sent to the governor. However, Governor Jim Doyle is a vociferous opponent of freedom of conscience. He has vetoed previous legislation and has vowed to veto AB207.

8 June, 2005
Nurse denied promotion due to conscientious objection

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which specializes in constitutional law, today filed a federal lawsuit against Eastern Illinois University after a nurse who was working at the University's Health Services Department was not promoted because of her pro-life beliefs and her objection to dispensing the morning-after pill. [ACLJ Files Federal Suit Against Illinois School]

Illinois pharmacist sues governor

Pharmacy owner Luke Vander Bleek has sued Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich because of his 'emergency' rule ordering all pharmacies to dispense contraceptives and potentially abortifacient drugs. Lawsuits have been launched against the governor by other conscientious objectors. (See AUL Files Suit Against Illinois Governor)

6 June, 2005
Treatment may be denied premature babies

Baroness Warnock supports suggestions being reviewed by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics to the effect that babies born at less than 24 weeks gestation should be denied treatment. [The Telegraph, 6 June, 2005]Such a policy would likely create conflicts of conscience among some health care workers.

5 June, 2005
Abortifacient birth control planned

In order to circumvent side effects associated with the birth control pill, scientists at Cambridge University are attempting to find a drug that will block the STAT3 molecule. Blocking the molecule would prevent implantation of the embryo [BBC, 5 June, 2005]. A birth control pill with this mechanism of action would be considered by many to be morally equivalent to an abortifacient, resulting in further tensions around the issue of freedom of conscience in health care.


26 May, 2005
More pharmacists sue Illinois governor

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which specializes in constitutional law, today filed an amended complaint in state court in Illinois adding four additional pharmacists to its lawsuit challenging Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's emergency amendment to the state code requiring pharmacists to dispense medication even if filling the prescriptions violate their conscience and religious beliefs. (ACLJ Adds Pharmacists to Lawsuit Against Illinois Governor

11 May, 2005
Pharmacist accused of berating patient

A woman claims that a Milwaukee pharmacist berated her as a "baby-killer" when she tried to obtain the morning-after pill, and, as a result of her trauma, she failed to seek another pharmacist and ended up having an abortion. The incident is alleged to have occurred at a Walgreen's Pharmacy. The pharmacist is not longer employed at that location. The state Department of Regulation and Licensing is looking into the claim.

Freedom of conscience for pharmacists threatened in Missouri

Legislators in Missouri are considering Senate Bill 458, which would force pharmacists to dispense drugs in spite of their moral convictions.


28 April, 2005
Philippines bill would punish conscientious objection

House Bill 3773, proposed in the Philippines, would punish conscientious objection by up to six months imprisonment. The bill will also force the Catholic Church to provide sterilization for its employees, a violation of Catholic teaching. {See Philippines Government launches attack on freedom of conscience)

27 April, 2005
Planned Parenthood opposes freedom of conscience in North Carolina

North Carolina House Bill 1407, which would extend freedom of conscience protection to pharmacists, is being opposed by Planned Parenthood.

22 April, 2005
Euthanasia rates rise in Belgium, cases increase in Netherlands

The Belgian Federal Control and Evaluation Commission for Euthanasia reports that there were about 20 cases of euthanasia per month in the first fifteen months after legalization of the procedure, and now runs about 30 per month. The Netherlands has seen an increase from 1815 cases in 2003 to 1886 in 2004. The more frequent the procedure, the greater the likelihood of conflicts of conscience among health care workers.

Psychologist reinstated

A psychologist who was dismissed from the National Provider Advisory Council for Magellan Health Services because he offered reparative therapy to persons with homosexual inclinations has been reinstated. Dr. Warren Throckmorton is a professor of psychology at Grove City College in Maryland. Magellan is a large American mental health management company.

19 April, 2005
Christian Medical Association opposes California assisted suicide bill

CMA director Dr. David Stevens has expressed his association's objections to the assisted suicide bill being proposed in California. Opposition in the medical profession is one of the reasons why protection of conscience legislation is of great practical importance. [See California assisted suicide bill includes protection of conscience provision]

18 April, 2005
Illinois Court to hear challenge to governor's decree

The Christian Legal Society's Center for Law & Religious Freedom, the Alliance Defense Fund, Americans United for Life, and John Mauck and Jason Craddock of Mauck and Baker will present arguments tomorrow to secure an injunction against a decree of the governor of Illinois that suppresses freedom of conscience for pharmacists. The lawyers are representing pharmacist David Scimio. [See Illinois Governor attacks freedom of conscience ; Another Illinois pharmacist sues governor ;Illinois pharmacists sue for freedom of conscience ]

17 April, 2005
Belgian pharmacies stock euthanasia kits

250 Belgian pharmacies are selling euthanasia kits to physicians for 60 Euros. Doctors must pick them up in person 24 hours after placing an order. The report does not indicate whether or pressure is being applied to force objecting pharmacies to supply the kits.

15 April, 2005
Wisconsin pharmacist punished for exercising freedom of conscience

The Wisconsin Pharmacy Examining Board is demanding that pharmacist Neil Noesen pay $20,000.00 of the costs of proceedings launched against him for refusing, for reasons of conscience, to fill a prescription for contraceptives. He has been ordered to notify employers in advance about what drugs he will refuse to dispense, and what he will do to ensure patients get the drugs he refuses to dispense himself. He must also attend six hours of "continuing education in pharmacy practice."

Another Illinois pharmacist sues governor

David Scimio, a Christian pharmacist at Albertsons, a grocery store in Chicago, is taking the governor of Illinois to court for violating the state's Health Care Right of Conscience Act. He had an arrangement with his employer to refer patients to a nearby pharmacy for the morning-after pill, but, following the governor's 'emergency' rule, was ordered to dispense the drug. Mr. Scimio is represented by the Center for Law & Religious Freedom, the Alliance Defense Fund, Americans United for Life, and John Mauck and Jason Craddock from Mauck and Baker. [See Illinois pharmacists sue for freedom of conscience ]

New bills claim access to contraception a 'right' superior to freedom of religion

Senate Bill 809, the Access to Legal Pharmaceuticals Act, or ALPhA, and a companion bill introduced in the US House of Representatives, effectively assert that access to legal contraception is a fundamental right that trumps religious belief. SB 809 was introduced by New Jersey Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, who wishes to compel pharmacies to dispense or facilitate access to all legal drugs and devices, regardless of the moral convictions of pharmacists and pharmacy owners. [News Item]

14 April, 2005
California assisted suicide bill includes protection of conscience provision

An assisted suicide bill that will go to the state assembly in California includes a protection of conscience provision. The California Compassionate Choice Act would protect health care providers and institutions from prosecution, civil actions or professional discipline for refusing to participate in assisted suicide [See Article 3, Immunities and Liabilities]

Tube feeding basic care, not treatment

According to a ruling by a New York Supreme Court judge, Jewish law considers assisted nutrition and hydration (tube feeding) as basic care, not medical treatment. The case concerned an 86 year old Orthodox Jewish Woman [The Jewish Week, 14 April]. The ruling contrasts sharply with the more usual assertion that nutrition and hydration constititute treatment that can be refused or withdrawn.

Illinois pharmacists sue for freedom of conscience

Two registered pharmacists from Edwardsville, Illinois, are suing Illinois Governor Blagojevich because of his executive order that pharmacists must dispense drugs or devices even if doing so violates their religious or moral convictions. The American Center for Law and Justice filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the 'emergency' rule, which the governor issued on 1 April, and which apparently violates the state's own Health Care Right of Conscience Act. [News Item]

13 April, 2005
Limited protection of conscience offered pharmacists by California bill

AB 644 is not framed as a freedom of conscience measure, but as a law to compel professionals to dispense legally prescribed drugs and devices despite conscientious objections. However, the text of the bill permits a pharmacist who has previously given his employer written notice of his objections to decline to fill a prescription. The employer must accommodate the pharmacist if doing so will not cause the employer undue hardship (the usual standard for accommodation of religious freedom), and it then becomes the duty of the employer to see that the patient can obtain the drug or device. A weakness in this arrangement is that an objecting employer or an objecting pharmacist who is operating his own pharmacy is denied the same freedom, since (if he does not carry the product) he is obliged to obtain and dispense the product, transfer the prescription or refer the patient to a pharmacy known to have it. Protective legislation will become increasingly important if California legalizes assisted suicide (see California Compassionate Choice Act), for this bill, as currently framed, would then make facilitation of assisted suicide a condition for running a pharmacy business in California.

Arizona Governor vetoes freedom of conscience

Governor Janet Napolitano has vetoed House Bill 2541, which would have ensured freedom of conscience for pharmacists, and health care institutions and health care workers with respect to abortion and 'emergency contraception.'

Pharmacist Freedom of Conscience Act proposed in Tennessee

Identical bills have been proposed in the Tennessee House (HB1383) and Senate (SB76) to prevent pharmacists from being forced to act against their conscientious convictions.

11 April, 2005
Infanticide practised in Belgium

15 of 117 neonatal deaths and 2 of 77 later infant deaths in Belgium from August, 1999 to July, 2000 were the result of lethal injections administered by physicians. The figure appears in a study reported in The Lancet. 69 of 120 physicians (58%) who completed the attitudinal part of the survey favoured legalization of infant euthanasia in some circumstances, causing the researchers to conclude, "Most physicians favour legalisation of the use of lethal drugs in some cases." [Medical end-of-life decisions in neonates and infants in Flanders Lancet 2005; 365: 1315-20] It would be more accurate to say that the survey indicates that the medical profession in Belgium is split on the issue. Such a split reflects the importance of protection of conscience legislation.

Convicted British physician advocates euthanasia
Dr Nigel Cox, who was given 12 months probation for attempting to murder an elderly patient by injecting her with potassium chloride, claims that "most" doctors will admit to having "bumped off" two or three patients upon request. His assertion was made in an interview with The Independent, and reflects continued pressure for legalization of euthanasia in the United Kingdom. Conscientious objectors to euthanasia among health care workers would be significantly affected by such a development.
10 April, 2005
81 year old will not be starved

81 year old Ora Mae Magouirk, who was being dehydrated and starved at a hospice, was airlifted to hospital after court-appointed doctors decided that her heart condition was treatable. She was awake and not in a persistent vegetative state, nor was she terminally ill. Her physician and grandchildren had ordered the cessation of nourishment. Like the Schiavo case, the incident demonstrates the potential for conflicts of conscience among health care workers.

Abortions up to 34 weeks gestation

Scotland on Sunday reported that hospitals in Scotland perform abortions as late as the 34th week of pregnancy. Such late term abortions are more likely to generate conflicts of conscience among health care workers. [See Nurses At Foothills Hospital Rebel Over The Horrifying Results Of Late-Term 'Genetic Terminations' ]

Arizona protection of conscience bill passes legislature

One of two bills that would ensure freedom of conscience for pharmacists, and health care institutions and health care workers with respect to abortion and 'emergency contraception' has passed the Arizona legislature. The bill does not define 'emergency contraception'. (HB 2541) A similar bill in the senate includes contraception and sterilization among the procedures covered (SB 1485)

6 April, 2005
Mental Capacity Bill passes in UK; concern expressed for conscientious objectors

The Political Secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) denounced passage of the government's Mental Capacity Bill and warned that it would have "profound repercussions" for those who have conscientious objections to killing patients by starvation and dehydrating patients. Anthony Ozimic said that "doctors will be forced to choose between killing some of their patients and leaving the profession."

Mr. Ozimic added, "Doctors who refuse on clinical or other ethical grounds to implement an advance refusal of treatment face litigation and possibly criminal conviction. Even in situations where there is no obligation to provide therapeutic measures (for example, when they are ineffective) there remains a duty of care towards the patient. It would be unreasonable, and immoral, to force healthcare professionals to relinquish this responsibility because of their conscientious objection to implementing clinically inappropriate or unethical advance refusals."

Coercive bill vetoed in Colorado

Citing the importance of informed consent, Governor Bill Owens vetoed a bill that would have forced hospitals to tell rape complainants about the morning-after pill without disclosing its potentially abortifacient effects. The governor noted that, without such information, a woman might be led to violate her own moral convictions about the sanctity of life.