Doctor Fired after Suing Catholic Hospital over Assisted Suicide

National Review

Wesley J. Smith

Colorado doctor Barbara Morris wants to assist her patient’s suicide. She works at Centura Health, a Catholic/Seventh Day Adventist-owned hospital that prohibits its employees from participating in assisted suicide, legal in Colorado.

Morris sued to be allowed to participate in her patient’s suicide by doctor — which would not happen in the hospital. The hospital responded by firing Morris for violating the terms of her contract by seeking to engage in acts in the context of her employment that violate the hospital’s religiously based moral beliefs.

Morris contends she can’t be prohibited from assisting her patient’s suicide because the Colorado law only allows health care facilities to opt-out if the suicide will occur on-site. The hospital is seeking shelter in the Trump administration’s medical conscience protection policies.

Expect more of these kinds of disputes as many U.S. hospitals are Catholic or otherwise religiously affiliated with churches that reject abortion and assisted suicide doctrinally. From the Kaiser Health News story:

More doctors and patients in the country are providing and receiving health care subject to religious restrictions. About 1 in 6 acute care beds nationally is in a hospital that is Catholic-owned or -affiliated, said Lois Uttley, a program director for the consumer advocacy group Community Catalyst. In Colorado, one-third of the state’s hospitals operate under Catholic guidelines.

The ACLU has already sued several Catholic hospitals over the last few years seeking to force them to violate Church doctrine on issues ranging from sterilization, to abortion, to sex-change surgeries.

Medical conscience disputes are going to become far more common as health care becomes immersed in our accelerating cultural conflicts and vexing questions of federalism. Bottom line: The ultimate goal of those who seek to force medical professionals and institutions to violate their religious beliefs, I believe, is to drive pro-lifers and Hippocratic Oath-adherents out of medicine.

ACLJ Vindicates Rights of Vermont Nurse Who Was Unlawfully Forced to Participate in Abortion – HHS Threatens to Pull Medical Center Funding

American Center for Law and Justice

Reproduced with permission

Jay Sekulow*

The ACLJ applauds today’s announcement by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding a Complaint we filed on behalf of a Vermont nurse who was forced into participating in an abortion procedure against her deeply held religious beliefs.

In our Complaint, we alleged that our client, an operating room nurse at the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) in Burlington, was coerced into assisting in an abortion in 2017 even though her name was on a list of nurses who, for religious or moral reasons, were conscientiously opposed to such participation and even though other non-objecting nurses were available who could easily have taken her place.

In the more than two decades of work that ACLJ has done to defend the rights of conscience of pro-life health care workers, this is by far the most outrageous case we’ve ever seen. Our client’s most fundamental beliefs about the sanctity of life were simply brushed aside.

Worse, her superiors deliberately misled her into thinking she was assisting in a procedure following a miscarriage. But once trapped inside the OR she discovered that it was, in fact, an elective abortion and that this had been known all along by her superiors who then callously refused to relieve her. To say that she was emotionally traumatized by this event is putting it mildly.

At least four other nurses at UVMMC have confirmed that they too have been subjected to similar violations of their conscience rights. We forwarded them to OCR as part of our Complaint. And after conducting its own thorough investigation of the matter, OCR has substantiated their allegations.

In its announcement, HHS finds that UVMMC has committed violations of the federal Church Amendment – the so-called “conscience clause” – named for the late liberal Idaho Democratic Senator Frank Church. The law was enacted in 1973 as a response to the Supreme Court’s legalization of abortion in Roe v. Wade. In general, it prohibits entities that receive federal funding from discriminating against employees who refuse to perform or assist in the performance of abortions because of their moral or religious beliefs.

But, because the Church Amendment has always lacked a mechanism for enforcement by private citizens, its enforcement has depended on action taken by HHS itself. In the decades since 1973, however, such enforcement has, for all intents and purposes, been nonexistent. With today’s announcement, HHS’s Office of Civil Rights has, at long last, put teeth in a law that has lain largely dormant since its enactment.

HHS has given UVMMC 30 days to come up with a policy that will ensure that the things that happened to our client, and others like her, will not happen again. If they fail to cooperate, they lose their federal funding.

This action by HHS is an enormous step forward toward the full protection of conscience rights of all those in the health care field who recognize the sanctity of all human life. The repercussions of today’s action will be felt in every hospital and health care system in the country.

No longer should pro-life health care professionals have to fear that their values – the values of protecting, not, destroying, life – make them somehow unfit or unsuitable for the healing profession. No nurses, doctors, or other health workers should ever be deliberately trapped in a room and forced to participate in something that their employer knows those workers consider abhorrent at the core of their being.

For over two decades the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has been at the forefront of advancing and defending the right of free speech and conscientious objection when it comes to the sanctity of human life. In addition to our work with legislators and public policy makers in Washington and around the country, we have also represented dozens of individuals – women and men on the front lines of the pro-life cause – who have found themselves discriminated against because of their pro-life stands. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care workers – we’ve gone to court for them before judges and juries from Maine to Hawaii and most points in between.

The ACLJ very much welcomes HHS’s vigorous enforcement of federal conscience rights in this case. No health care worker should be forced to abandon their career because they refuse to abandon their pro-life convictions. If you are a healthcare worker and have experienced a similar situation, please contact us at ACLJ.org/HELP.

I wanted to be a rural doctor in Canada. But our medical education system works against it

The Ottawa Citizen

Emma Cronk

Dear Perth residents, I am sorry.

My name is Emma Cronk, and I was raised on my parents’ 2,000-acre ranch in Parham, Ont., north of Kingston. I am currently a family medicine resident physician in Atlanta, Georgia at Emory University.

I tried for two application cycles for medical school in Canada, and applied broadly: from Ontario medical schools, to the east coast at Memorial University, to the west coast at University of British Columbia. After two years of rejection letters, I decided to apply internationally at Ross University School of Medicine in the Caribbean. I had come to realize that a lot of Canadian students were following this same path. . . [Full text]

GPs are ignoring democracy on abortion issues

Doctors’ group is demanding members fall into line without expressing their concerns

The Irish Times

Breda O’Brien

The board of the Irish College of General Practitioners, the professional body for general practice in Ireland, has refused for the second time requests from some of its members to hold an emergency general meeting to debate motions on abortion.  

Why is the ICGP so afraid of democracy? This is only the latest twist in a long-running saga that began when Simon Harris announced in a radio interview that abortion services were to be GP-led.

This was the first that GPs had heard of it. They were already over-worked, highly stressed and leaving the profession in droves. Many were stunned that there had been absolutely no consultation with GPs. . . [Full text]

Abortion and the medical profession

The Irish Times (Letter)
Reproduced with permission

Dr. Noreen O’Carroll

Sir, –

Dr Mark Murphy states that doctors who are opposed to abortion are in no way affected by the new service and their conscientious right to objection is respected.

In fact, doctors who have a conscientious objection are legally compelled to make arrangements for the transfer of care of the pregnant woman concerned to someone who will terminate the pregnancy. For doctors who cherish human life from its origins, that is tantamount to making them accomplices in taking the life of a developing baby.

This is an abuse of conscience and contrary to the practice of medicine in the spirit of the Hippocratic oath which prohibits the direct intentional taking of human life.

Dr Murphy, who you omitted to mention is on the staff of the department of general practice at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, is one of a minority of GPs in Ireland who have signed up to provide abortion services; the vast majority of GPs have not done so – 274 was the figure recently reported by the HSE.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of a pro-life group; although as an ordinary citizen, I have consistently advocated for the life of the developing baby to be legally protected and have voted accordingly.

– Yours, etc, Dr Noreen O’Carroll, (Lecturer in Medical Ethics, RCSI), Blackrock, Co Dublin.

The euthanasia slippery slope is here

National Post

Barbara Kay

Last week marked the four-year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that validated Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID). At the time, many euthanasiasts confidently predicted there would be no “slippery slope” toward abuses. . . Federal Justice Minister David Lametti has said the government will continue to review the practice of MAID. . . Will he take into serious consideration the opinions of doctors who find the practice repugnant and contrary to conscience? . . .[Full text]

A proposal to reduce vaccine exemptions while respecting rights of conscience

Medical Xpress / The Conversation

Stacie Kershner, Daniel Salmon, Hillel Y. Levin and Timothy D. Lytton

Vaccine resistance is one of the top 10 threats to global health in 2019, according to the World Health Organization. Here in the U.S., New York City is currently experiencing its worst outbreak of measles in decades, sickening scores of children in ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods.

Other clustered outbreaks of deadly and highly contagious, but vaccine-preventable, diseases are becoming frustratingly routine around the country. These outbreaks are caused by some parents’ decision to claim religious and philosophical exemptions to state mandates that children must be vaccinated in order to attend school.

In response, prominent health organizations and advocacy groups have called on state legislatures to eliminate religious and philosophical exemptions. . . .

. . . In a collaboration among legal scholars and public health experts, we have developed an alternative approach: a model law that aims to reduce the number of parents who decline to vaccinate their children while respecting freedom of conscience. . . [Full text]

Death on demand: has euthanasia gone too far?

The Guardian

Christopher de Bellaigue

Last year a Dutch doctor called Bert Keizer was summoned to the house of a man dying of lung cancer, in order to end his life. . . . Keizer is one of around 60 physicians on the books of the Levenseindekliniek, or End of Life Clinic, which matches doctors willing to perform euthanasia with patients seeking an end to their lives, and which was responsible for the euthanasia of some 750 people in 2017. . . [Full text]

Doctors are last line of abortion defence

The law has changed but responsibilities of medical profession have not

The Times

David Quinn

In the Germany of Otto von Bismarck, they called it the Kulturkampf, which means cultural struggle. In a narrow sense it referred to the battle between the German state and the Catholic church over schools and ecclesiastical appointments, but more generally to efforts to reduce the influence of Catholicism in German life. The Lutheran church, being state-run, was not deemed a threat to Bismarck’s vision for a newly unified Germany.

The Irish state has not quite got around to seeking control over who gets to become a bishop, but church-run schools are in its sights, and ministers seem determined to reduce the influence of Catholicism in Irish life to a minimum. . . [Full text]

Alarming gap in assisted dying in Antigonish

The Chronicle Herald

Jocelyn Downie

Today (Dec. 17) marks two and a half years since the coming into force of Canada’s federal legislation on medical assistance in dying (MAiD).

In Nova Scotia, MAiD has now been requested in about 400 cases and provided in about 200. Unfortunately, there is one particularly notable gap in access to MAiD: St. Martha’s Regional Hospital, a publicly funded faith-based institution in Antigonish, refuses to allow MAiD within its walls. . . [Full text]