If such thinking prevails, medical professionals could be forced to participate in the taking of human life, for example in abortion, assisted suicide, and (given the research trends in regenerative medicine) providing treatments derived from the intentional destruction of human embryos or fetuses.
That certainly seems to be the direction in which the ACLU wishes to take the country. Recently, the ACLU of Washington State began trolling for potential clients to sue medical professionals or facilities that refused to participate in certain legal procedures or transactions based on religious objection:
"Have you or members of your family been denied reproductive health care or end-of-life services by a religiously based medical facility? The ACLU believes that everyone in Washington has the right to receive health care that is not restricted by the religious beliefs of others."The solicitation listed specific procedures—some of which involve the taking of human life—that presumably a patient should have a right to receive. They include:
- Information about Washington’s Death with Dignity Act [the law permitting doctor-assisted suicide for the terminally ill];
- Referral to support organizations or cooperating providers to assist a patient in using Washington’s Death with Dignity Act;
- Medical providers permitted to participate in Washington’s Death with Dignity Act;
- Palliative care/nursing support for patients who choose to stop eating and drinking to allow natural death (e.g., participation in suicide by starvation, not a natural death)
- Pharmacy dispensary (e.g., forced dispensing of drugs used in assisted suicide, RU 486 abortions, etc.)
Such denial of medical conscience is not yet embedded in American law. But if the anti-religious liberties lobby gets its way, it will be. Indeed, in coming years, medical professionals who believe in the Hippocratic Oath’s prohibition against killing could well be driven out of medicine.
Jonathan Imbody, CMA VP for Govt. Relations: – The US Senate recently highlighted this battle over conscience and autonomy by voting on a bill (the Women’s Health Protection Act, S. 1696) that would, in the words of the National Right to Life Committee, "invalidate nearly all existing state limitations on abortion ... [including] laws allowing medical professionals to opt out of providing abortions, laws limiting the performance of abortions to licensed physicians, bans on elective abortion after 20 weeks, meaningful limits on abortion after viability, and bans on the use of abortion as a method of sex selection." Thankfully, the Senate bill failed, on a largely party-line cloture vote.
The bill reflects the escalating conflict between two camps in American society that hold irreconcilable worldviews: those who follow objective moral and ethical standards outside themselves (such as the Bible and the Hippocratic oath) and those whose only ethic is autonomy, which boils down to "whatever I want." The scary part is that many authorities in the medical community, which used to lead the way in promoting and following objective ethical standards, have all but abandoned the Hippocratic oath and increasingly promote autonomy as the ethic that trumps all else.
As appealing as autonomy may sound and even though it has its place in some cases, it is not the kind of standard that protects others well at all, like the Bible and the Hippocratic oath do. That's because one person's autonomy in one direction inevitably runs smack into another person's autonomy headed in the opposite direction. What happens then? Whoever is strongest wins.
If a patient gains the power in the name of autonomy to demand and receive whatever he or she wants, the healthcare professional becomes a mere "provider" and loses the essence of professionalism--professing to follow an objective standard. Similarly, if a mother insists on fulfilling her autonomy through an abortion, the baby loses her life.
Autonomy brooks no competition. So autonomy is less a reliable ethic and more a prescription for conflict, an enemy of tolerance and diversity.
In the First Amendment's establishment clause ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"), America's founders carefully balanced conscience freedoms with community interests, minority rights with majority rule, individual liberty with governmental function. We must shore up that understanding of freedom every chance we get--in the culture, in Congress and in the courts--or we will lose the ability to live out our faith in our professions and in the public square.
- Urge your U.S. senators to support (or thank your senator for already co-sponsoring) the Health Care Conscience Rights Act - S. 1204 , to protect religious liberty and preserve patient access by providing conscience protections for health care professionals. (Note: You will be provided with editable text based on your senator's sponsorship or non-sponsorship of this bill.)
- Urge your U.S. Representative to support (or thank your Rep. for already co-sponsoring) the Health Care Conscience Rights Act - H.R. 940.
CMDA's Freedom2Care website: Freedom of faith, conscience and speech
CMDA's Freedom2Care commentaries in national newspapers
CMDA Freedom of Faith and Conscience resources
"U.S. Senate Democrats launch push for “the most radical pro-abortion bill ever" - National Right to Life