New York Law Journal
A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed rule that would more vigorously protect health care providers’ ability to deny coverage in certain circumstances because of moral or religious beliefs should be withdrawn, according to a coalition of state attorneys general.
The proposed rule would strengthen the enforcement of existing regulations that allow providers to invoke conscientious objections as a basis for refusing to provide care that involves certain medical issues, including abortion, sterilization, assisted suicide and others. It also would allow individual providers to object to informing patients about their medical options or referring them to providers of those options. . . [Full Text]
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing a Washington state public hospital district, claiming that it is failing to provide medical and surgical abortions. In fact, the hospital district provides both, but refers patients to other facilities for abortion when they cannot be provided in one of the district hospitals because of conscientious objection to the procedure by staff. It thus appears that the ACLU is not content with forcing facilities to refer for abortion, but intends to force them to provide the procedure despite conscientious objection by physicians and health care workers. [Reuters]
In one of the last photographs my family took of my grandmother, she looks as if she’s been in a fistfight. Jean Bass Tinsley is lying in a hospital bed in Athens, Georgia, wearing a turquoise button-up shirt and staring blankly at the camera. A bandage obscures her fractured skull, along with the bridge of her bloodied nose. She is 91 years old.
My grandmother essentially did this to herself. In June 2013, she fell out of her wheelchair headfirst, after ignoring her caregivers’ warnings not to get out of bed without help. Earlier that year, she’d broken both of her hips, in separate falls. Before that, her pelvis-all while trying to do what for most of her life she’d managed just fine on her own: walk.
In her last year, dementia crept into my grandmother’s mind. The staff at her long-term-care facility plotted ways to protect her from herself. It’s against the law in Georgia to restrain patients in such facilities, so they lowered her bed to the floor and put a pad down next to it. They even installed an alarm that went off if she left her mattress. My grandmother disabled the alarm, moved the pad and freed herself, repeatedly. In the end, she was both too weak and too strong. [Full text]
The Washington State Department of Health has posted a web page that lists all of the hospitals in the state, together with their policies on admission, non-discrimination, end of life care, and reproductive health care. The page makes it possible for those seeking morally contested procedures to locate hospitals willing to provide them, while allowing hospitals that do not provide them to provide notice of that fact. This should help to minimize inconvenience and conflict.
The Washington State branch of the ACLU has prepared a petition to the state Governor to “ensure that religious ideology does not dictate the health care services a patient may choose.” The organization asserts that patients are put “at risk” when hospitals are subject to religious guidelines. [NCR]
Cuando la conciencia molesta a la ley
A finales de 2010, en la Asamblea Parlamentaria del Consejo de Europa (PACE) se presentó un informe de su Comisión de Asuntos Sociales, Salud y Familia en el que expresaba su profunda preocupación por el problema de la “objeción de conciencia no regulada” en Europa. El Comité propuso que los Estados adoptaran “una regulación integral y clara” para hacer frente a este problema. . .[aceprensa]
In late 2010, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) was presented with a report from its Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee expressing deep concern about the problem of “unregulated conscientious objection” in Europe. The Committee proposed to solve this problem by having states adopt “comprehensive and clear regulations” to address it.
The Council ultimately adopted a resolution that almost completely contradicted the premises of the report, but in 2011 the theme was resurrected by Dr. Leslie Cannold, an Australian ethicist. Dr. Cannold warned that, “[a]t best, unregulated conscientious objection is an accident waiting to happen,” and, at worst, “a sword wielded by the pious against the vulnerable with catastrophic results.” It was, she wrote, “a pressing problem from which we can no longer, in good conscience, look away.” . . .[Full text]
The State of Washington has announced that it will appeal a decision by a U.S. District Court Judge that held that a state regulation was deliberately intended to deny freedom of conscience to pharmacists, and therefore unconstititional. [Yakima Herald]
Judge Robert B. Leighton of the United States District Court has ruled against the Washington State Department of Health. The case may be summarized by quoting the judge’s opening and concluding paragraphs:
This case presents a novel question: can the State compel licensed pharmacies and pharmacists to dispense lawfully prescribed emergency contraceptives over their sincere religious belief that doing so terminates a human life? In 2007, under pressure from the Governor, Planned Parenthood, and the Northwest Women’s Law Center, the Washington State Board of Pharmacy enacted regulations designed to do just that. . .
. . . The Board of Pharmacy’s 2007 rules are not neutral, and they are not generally applicable. They were designed instead to force religious objectors to dispense Plan B, and they sought to do so despite the fact that refusals to deliver for all sorts of secular reasons were permitted. The rules are unconstitutional as applied to Plaintiffs. The Court will therefore permanently enjoin their enforcement against Plaintiffs.
[Full text of ruling]