Missouri House and Senate pass protection of conscience bills

House Bill 1541 has been passed by the Missouri House of Representatives.  The bill defines ‘conscience’ as “the religious, moral, or ethical principles held by a medical professional or a health care institution.”  The bill ensures that individuals and institutions cannot be compelled to participate in a number of defined procedures or research activities to which they object for reasons of conscience, and protects them against discrimination. Meanwhile, the Missouri Senate passed SB749, a bill drafted to prevent employers from being forced to provide insurance coverage for abortion, contraception or sterilization.[Missourian]


Quebec euthanasia proposal challenged as unbalanced

Margaret Somerville, founding Director of McGill University’s Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, criticizes the report of Quebec’s Select Committee on Dying with Dignity on the ground that it is unbalanced “and reads rather like a pro-euthanasia manifesto.”  She notes that two thirds of the submissions received by the Committee opposed euthansia. [The Gazette]


U.S. Supreme Court begins hearing on federal health care reforms

The U.S. Supreme Court has commenced three days of hearings in a suit brought against the health care reform legislation that is generating significant controversy in the United States, much of it to do with general claims to freedom of conscience and religion. 26 state attorneys general have challenged the constitutionality of the legislation, and amicus briefs have been filed by seven medical organizations.[National Post]


Pharmaceutical Hippocratic Oath

The Pharmaceutical Hippocratic Oath has been prepared by Reprieve, an organization in the United Kingdom that works to ensure fair judicial processes around the world. The group places special emphasis on cases involving capital punishment.  The oath includes the following statement:

“We dedicate our work to developing and distributing pharmaceuticals to the service of humanity; we will practice our profession with conscience and dignity; the right to health of the patient will be our first consideration; we condemn the use of any of our pharmaceuticals in the execution of human beings.”

Some of the issues associated with the campaign it are relevant to freedom of conscience for health care workers, especially pharmacists.  They include the problem of complicity, degrees of participation and the apparent appeal to a de facto corporate conscience.

U.S. federal directive offers model for protection of conscience

The U.S. Agency for International Development has published a directive that includes a provision that prevents the federal government from denying funds to groups because they refuse to provide services to which they have moral or religious objections.  The directive concerns only specific programmes funded by one agency, but it is of interest because the Obama administration has discriminated against a  Catholic agency because of its refusal to provide abortion and contraception. [CNS]


Alabama seeks to join lawsuit to protect freedom of conscience

The Attorney General of Alabama is reported to be seeking to join a lawsuit against the federal government launched by the Eternal Word Television Network to stop the federal government from forcing objecting employers to provide insurance coverage for surgical sterilization, contraceptives and embryocides.  The Attorney General considers the Obama administration’s regulation unconstitutional. [WAAY TV]


Compulsory referral for euthanasia recommended in Quebec

The Select Committee on Dying with Dignity has tabled a report unanimously recommending “relevant legislation be amended” to allow euthanasia in the province of Quebec.  The Committee also recommends that objecting physicians be forced to refer for the procedure.  According to the recommendations, conscientious objections by nurses will be allowed, but it does not indicate whether or not they should be compelled to participate in or facilitate the procedure by referral or other means. The Committee recommends that codes of ethics for physicians and nurses be amended accordingly.  The recommendations are available in English, but the report will not be available in English until May [Quebec National Assembly].