Health Care and Morality

Posted on Wednesday 1 February 2006

There’s an article over at the Washington Post about health care workers and new legislation which will allow them assert their religious values and not provide services which they find morally objectionable. I’ve quoted the first two paragraphs below.

More than a dozen states are considering new laws to protect health workers who do not want to provide care that conflicts with their personal beliefs, a surge of legislation that reflects the intensifying tension between asserting individual religious values and defending patients’ rights.

About half of the proposals would shield pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control and “morning-after” pills because they believe the drugs cause abortions. But many are far broader measures that would shelter a doctor, nurse, aide, technician or other employee who objects to any therapy. That might include in-vitro fertilization, physician-assisted suicide, embryonic stem cells and perhaps even providing treatment to gays and lesbians.

A Stitch in Haste has a very good post about this very issue.

A few questions I have to ask are:

  • What about patients rights?
  • What about being able to expect to get legally allowed medical treatment, without being subject to someone’s moral or religious scrutiny?
  • Doesn’t this effectively allow caregivers to discriminate against their patients, based on their sexual orientation or religious beliefs (or lack thereof).
  • Don’t health care providers have a ethical and legal responsibility to their patients to provide them with all available medical care options?
  • Don’t patients have a right to know if the beliefs and morals of their care providers may affect their ability to provide otherwise legal medical care options?
  • Don’t care providers have a responsibility to disclose whether their personal beliefs and morals may possibly affect patient care?

Again, this is an attempt by the conservatives to indirectly force their moral beliefs onto others through legislation. They have tried similar tactics with regards to “Intelligent Design” being taught in the classroom. They have failed there, and I hope that the courts will see reason in these cases as well.

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