Controversy Over New 'Conscience' Rule: U.S. President Broadens Rule on Refusal of Health Services for Moral Reasons

with portions sourced by writings of  Daniel DeNoon and Louise Chang

Controversy Over New 'Conscience' Rule: U.S. President Broadens Rule on Refusal of Health Services for Moral Reasons

By Daniel J. DeNoon WebMD Health News, Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD, Comments by Ben B. Boothe Sr.

Dec. 19, 2008 -- How would you like to go to a hospital and have the staff to refuse to treat your child, because of a religious or "moral" belief? How would you like to have a doctor, because he has a different moral or religious belief than you, refuse treatment to a loved one?

Church and State, DANGEROUS!

I remember years ago, a religious father refused to allow his son to be taken to the doctor, because his church (7th Day Adventist), then taught that "God would heal" and there was no necessity for doctors. Now, we are seeing this from a different approach, and this is done not in the name of medical science but on "moral" and "religious grounds". It appears to be another attack on U.S.A. individual rights and freedoms. I thought our readers should see this article, originally written by Daniel J. DeNoon.

In some nations, such as Iran, religious leaders have a powerful influence on the way doctors and hospitals treat the public. If a doctor or hospital disagrees with the "politically correct" religious edict, arrest or worse can occur. This seems to be particularly hard on women and children, because they have fewer "rights" than men, in medical situations. Now it seems that leaders in the U.S.A. are introducing religious ideology into the medical system.

"An 11th-hour ruling from the Bush administration gives health care workers, hospitals, and insurers more leeway to refuse health services for moral or religious reasons.

The rule, issued today, becomes effective in 30 days. Its main provisions widen the number of health workers and institutions that may refuse, based on "sincere religious belief or moral conviction," to provide care or referrals to patients.

"This rule protects the right of medical providers to care for their patients in accord with their conscience," says Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt in a statement.

Previous rules allow health care workers to refuse to provide abortion or sterilization services to which they are morally opposed. The new rulings give individuals and institutions much greater leeway in refusing to provide services to which they are morally opposed.

The ruling, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, covers an estimated 571,947 "entities" including doctors' offices, pharmacies, hospitals, insurers, medical and nursing schools, diagnostic labs, nursing homes, and state governments.

Each of these entities is required to certify in writing that they will comply with the ruling. Failure to comply may be punished with loss of federal funding.

A wide number of medical groups strongly oppose the new ruling. These groups include the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and 27 state medical associations.

The focus of the new ruling is on protecting health care workers and institutions that oppose abortion and a broad interpretation of "sterilization."

The rule comes at a time of increasingly frequent reports of conflicts between health-care workers and patients. Pharmacists have turned away women seeking birth control and morning-after emergency contraception pills. Fertility doctors have refused to help unmarried women and lesbians conceive by artificial insemination.