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Sep 5 2008
conscientious objectors in medical fields?

I just got the following e-mail from the SCA:

Dear Supporter,

Last month the Secular Coalition for America asked you to contact the Secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency (HHS) to express your opposition to draft "conscience clause" regulations. You were effective! Under pressure, Secretary Leavitt did remove a portion of the draft language that redefined contraception as abortion. Unfortunately, the remainder of the regulation is moving forward.

This regulation would allow anyone working or volunteering in any medical or research facility that receives any federal funding to refuse to serve patients or conduct research if to do so would violate their "conscience." The proposal is so broad that it could allow individuals to interfere with medical services in any number of areas. For example, a medical professional could refuse to honor advanced directives/end of life care requests or to treat lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgender patients if doing so would be religiously objectionable.

Medical professionals (whether they are doctors, pharmacists, technicians, or emergency medical technicians) are employed in the field of medicine, not spirituality. They have the right to consider their own religious beliefs in determining what medical decisions they make for their own care, but their personal religion should never infringe on the right of a patient to seek products or procedures that they have a legal right to obtain.

Please take a moment to send a message to HHS administrators telling them why you oppose regulations that will allow medical professionals to deny care to people for religious reasons. During this public comment period, the HHS is counting the number of comments they receive prior to implementation. There is a possibility that if more people submit comments opposing this legislation than supporting it, these regulations could be stopped from being enacted.


Thank you for supporting the Secular Coalition for America.

Best wishes,

Lori Lipman Brown, Director

Secular Coalition for America

This seems like a confusing issue to me. I mean, at first it seems as if it would be reasonable to allow people to refuse to do something in their job if they find it morally objectionable. Wouldn't that be freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, two things I believe we should make sure people have? My first thought is, as long as my doctor is up front with me from the start about what he/she is not willing to do, I can choose the doctor who fits me best.

But, thinking about it a little more, it becomes clear how ridiculous this would be. Lori's letter above mentions the ways that doctors could refuse services to certain people based on their own biases. But, that's small potatoes. What if a person became a doctor and then converted to Christian Science, believing that all medical practice was objectionable to God? Would the hospital that hired them be required to continue to pay them even though they would not be working at all? As far as I can tell, this law would say "yes, you cannot fire them or require them to do anything they object to". Basically, they could retire on a great doctors salary at any age they choose. (This would swell the ranks of the Church of Christ Scientist, but medical costs would skyrocket.) And, why would it be limited to medicine? What if you got a job at a slaughter house and then became Buddhist or Seventh Day Adventist? Could you refuse to do any work at the slaughter house because you find it conflicts with your religious belief in vegetarianism and not killing animals...but still expect them to pay you and keep you working there?

My conclusion is that the solution is this: You have a choice in what career to pursue; don't go into a profession where you'll be expected to do things that go against your religion. For instance, if you're an orthodox Jew, don't get a job taste-testing barbeque pork. Or, if there is some change (either in your religious beliefs or your job requirements) while you're on the job, you might have to switch jobs! I know, that would be a pain in the neck, but it's nothing compared to what some others have done for their religious convictions.

Sep 7 2008
Re: conscientious objectors in medical fields?

There's another tack that would eliminate most of the objections (since this is 99% about birth control) - make birth control pills available over the counter without a prescription alongside Pepcid AC and Claritin. They are no more dangerous than either of these now OTC drugs, and not difficult to understand since they come in packages labeled with the day you take them.

It's not like doctors explain to women how to take the pill when they prescribe it, or monitor you for side effects afterwards. They figure you can read and expect you to come forward if you have problems with side effects - no different than if it were OTC.

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