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.

Over 1,300 nursing and midwifery posts in Irish hospitals are being left vacant

One in six midwifery posts are being left vacant.

thejournal.ie

Rónán Duffy

THERE ARE OVER 1,300 vacant nursing and midwifery posts in Irish hospitals due to the HSE’s effective recruitment freeze, the INMO has said today.

Phil Ní Sheaghdha of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has said the figures demonstrate that the government is “refusing to fill frontline healthcare posts” and that patient care is being compromise as a result. . . [Full text]

Conscientious objection: how much discretionary power should physicians have?

BioEdge

Xavier Symons

There has been significant debate about conscientious objection in healthcare in recent years. Some scholars have argued that conscience protections in law and professional codes of conduct may lead to negligence in medical care and may put patient wellbeing at risk. For example, Oxford bioethicist Julian Savulescu has argued that conscience protections open a “Pandora’s box of idiosyncratic, bigoted, discriminatory medicine”, and that “public servants must act in the public interest, not their own”. 

But should physicians have the right to exercise professional discretion with patients? 

Some scholars, such as Daniel Sulmasy, argue that physician discretion is an essential part of good medical practice, and that restrictions on conscientious objection would have a negative impact on medical care. In a 2017 article in the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, Sulmasy argued that physicians should have the right to exercise their judgement about which treatments they will provide, provided that they are not practicing medicine in a manner that is discriminatory or harmful to patients. He wrote that “professional judgments are both technical and moral in all cases”  and that it is important to “respect and protect a wide discretionary space for physicians regarding ethically controversial interventions”. According to Sulmasy, 

“Conscientious refraining from actions when such restraint does not risk illness, injury, or death, would not seem to rise to the level of being sufficient grounds for compelling conscience”.

This argument, however, has been criticised. Doug McConnell, an ethicist at the University of Oxford, argues in the journal Bioethics (and in Oxford’s Practical Ethics blog) that too much physician discretion can lead to people being denied basic forms of medical care. While Sulmasy agrees that physicians should not practice discriminatory medicine, his framework still allows for objecting doctors to refuse patients treatment for “commonly accepted ailments, such as rashes, headaches, mild depression and anxiety”. 

McConnell also argues that Sulmasy’s framework undermines the fiduciary relationship that clinicians should have with their patients. Sulmasy appears to give equal weight to the interests of doctors and the interests of patients. Thus, a doctor can refuse a patient a treatment if the treatment conflicts with their ethical or religious convictions. But McConnell argues that this is incompatible with a fiduciary relationship: 

“within fiduciary relationships, the party with the fiduciary duty should place greater weight on the others’ interests and, so be prepared to go against his conscience”. 

Physicians, in other words, should be prepared to put patient interests ahead of their own moral or religious convictions. 

Yet McConnell may have misunderstood Sulmasy’s account of the fiduciary relationship between clinicians and patients. Sulmasy is a student of Edmund Pellegrino — a medical ethicist who wrote at length about the notion of “the patient’s good”, and argued that this should be at the centre of a doctor’s professional concerns. It is hard to believe that Sulmasy would downplay a physician’s duties to their patients. 

Perhaps the real distinction between McConnell and Sulmasy is not their concern for the good of the patient, but rather the way in which they conceptualise the patient’s good. For Sulmasy, the patient’s good is determined by a set of moral and technical considerations, whereas for McConnell, the patient’s good is more a matter of their individual preferences and interests.

This article is published by Xavier Symons and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation to BioEdge. Commercial media must contact BioEdge for permission and fees.

Courts hear conscience arguments of pro-life health-care staffers

Even Supreme Court agreed doctors have ‘the right to refrain from abortion’

WND

WND staff

A “conscience rights” rule implemented by the Trump administration that exempts physicians from providing “treatments” that violate religious faith such as abortion has been challenged by lawsuits in New York and California.

CNBC reported the city of San Francisco sued after alleging people could be deprived of health care treatments such as “assisted suicide” because of someone else’s beliefs. . . [Full Text]

Abortion groups in South Africa can’t find doctors willing to perform abortions

Catholic News Agency

Johannesburg, South Africa, Aug 24, 2019 / 03:38 pm (CNA).- Despite efforts by abortion advocates to expand the number of abortion clinics in South Africa, doctors in the country are largely unwilling to perform the procedure. . . [Full text]

Doctor charged for advising that unborn babies are human

Media Release

Embargo: Immediate release

Doctors for Life International

Enquiries: Doctors For Life Int. Telephone: 032 481 5550 / +27 74 107 8818 (not for SMS)

Former Military Hospital doctor, Dr Jacques de Vos, has been charged by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) for advising that abortion is the killing of an unborn human being. Dr De Vos, who is a member of Doctors For Life International (DFL) will finally be able to respond to charges after waiting more than two years since being barred from practicing as a doctor.

Dr De Vos was a medical intern at 2 Military Hospital when he was suspended from the gynaecology rotation and refused to be signed off. As a result, Dr De Vos has also been prevented from commencing his community service year, effectively barring him from practicing medicine in South Africa for the past two years. Despite numerous efforts by Dr De Vos and his legal team, Dr De Vos has not received any assistance from the SA Military Health Service or the HPCSA to continue with his career.

Adv Keith Matthee SC, instructed by De Wet Wepener Attorneys, will represent Dr De Vos when he appears before a five or six-member panel disciplinary enquiry scheduled for 27 and 28 August 2019 in Cape Town. This case is likely to attract great interest in the medical community as healthcare practitioners such as Dr De Vos are often victimized and discriminated against for upholding the sanctity of life for unborn children and for advising women of the adverse effects of abortion on the mother of the unborn child.

The hearings are open to the public. The venue is yet to be confirmed by the HPCSA.

For more information, contact Martus de Wet of De Wet Wepener Attorneys at 057 004 0004.


Doctors For Life International NPC
Tel: +27 (0) 32 481 5550 – mail@dfl.org.za – PO Box 6613 Zimbali 4418 South Africa – Reg. No. 2002/000258/08 –
NPO Reg. No. 030-091-NPO ● Find us on Facebook: https://web.facebook.com/doctors4life/

Scientists Attempt Controversial Experiment To Edit DNA In Human Sperm Using CRISPR

National Public Radio

Rob Stein

First it was human embryos. Now scientists are trying to develop another way to modify human DNA that can be passed on to future generations, NPR has learned.

Reproductive biologists at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City are attempting to use the powerful gene-editing technique called CRISPR to alter genes in human sperm. NPR got exclusive access to watch the controversial experiments underway. . . [Full text]

Bergenfield Doctor’s Lawsuit Halts NJ Physician-Assisted Suicide Act

Jewish Link

Bracha Schwartz

Rabbi Yosef P. Glassman, MD, of Bergenfield, has won a lawsuit to temporarily stop the New Jersey Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act that had been scheduled to take effect on August 16. The law would allow physicians, under certain conditions, to prescribe drugs to terminally ill patients for the sole purpose of ending their lives. But the battle has just begun.

In an email interview, Rabbi Dr. Glassman explained why he initiated the lawsuit. “I was motivated to act by the chilling prospect of being a part of the suicide process, which strongly conflicted with both my professional and religious values. I was fortunate enough to engage in meaningful discussions with several concerned Jewish community members on the topic, and I decided to take a firm position, being involved in the field of geriatrics. Some people who may oppose my action may say that I want dying patients to suffer, chas v’shalom. Quite the opposite—we as physicians have ample tools to alleviate the suffering for the living, even for the terminally ill, without the need to license suicide.” . . . [Full text]

Conscientious Objection, Professional Discretionary Space, and Good Medicine

Practical Ethics

Doug McConnell

Some argue that good medicine depends on physicians having a wide discretionary space in which they can act on their consciences (Sulmasy, 2017). Interestingly, those who are against conscientious objection in medicine make the exact opposite claim – giving physicians the freedom to act on their consciences will undermine good medicine. So who is right here? . . . [Full text]

Eduard Pernkopf: The Nazi book of anatomy still used by surgeons

BBC News

Keiligh Baker

When nerve surgeon Dr Susan Mackinnon needed help to finish an operation, she reached, as she often does, for a mid-20th Century book of anatomy.

Thanks to the complex hand-drawn illustrations – showing the human body peeled back layer by layer – Dr Mackinnon, from Washington University in St Louis, was able to complete the procedure.

The book she had used, the innocuous-sounding Pernkopf Topographic Anatomy of Man, is widely considered to be the best example of anatomical drawings in the world. It is richer in detail and more vivid in colour than any other. . . [Full text]