We have a new euphemism and a potential new regulation from the Bush administration: “provider conscience rights”. What this is about is providing religious doctors with loopholes so that they can avoid responsibility for treating patients with the best possible care — so they can use religious excuses to justify neglect. You can read the press release, Regulation Proposed to Help Protect Health Care Providers from Discrimination, and of course the odious Mike Leavitt has mentioned it. This is a proposed new rule that if, for instance, a doctor with superstitious scruples is treating a rape victim, he would not only be allowed to refuse her emergency contraception, he wouldn’t even be required to refer her to someone who could give it to her, or even mention that the option existed. Apparently, the ignorant dogma of the health care provider supersedes the right of the patient to informed consent and appropriate care.
This is open for commentary for the next few days. Again, I notice the web page has a bizarrely twisted title: “Ensuring that Department of Health and Human Services Funds Do Not Support Coercive or Discriminatory Policies or Practices In Violation of Federal Law”. Now asking that doctors behave ethically with respect for the rights of the patient is now “coercive”. Who cares about the patient, though? Isn’t medicine all about the doctor imposing his or her will, right down to his arbitrary beliefs about deities, on the patient?
Lois Uttley, a well-known defender of patient rights, has spelled out a few general principles which are being defied by this new regulation. Maybe you could use some of these when expressing your objections.
Principles of a Progressive Response:
- The welfare of the patient must be at the center of medical
decision-making and treatment.
- The religious/moral beliefs of a caregiver or religious doctrine of a
health care institution cannot be allowed to obstruct a patient’s access to
- Patients must be able to make treatment decisions based on accurate
medical information and their own ethical or religious beliefs.
Protecting Patients’ Rights: Five Key Principles
- A patient’s right to informed consent must be paramount. No information
may be withheld.
- Health care institutions must provide emergency care immediately, without
- For non-emergency care, referrals must be made if treatment is refused.
- The ability of non-objecting health practitioners to serve their patients
must be safeguarded. No physician “gag rules” should be allowed.
- Institutional treatment restrictions must be disclosed to patients in
Get out there and speak out for your right to not be bound by your doctor’s freaky religion. This is especially important for women, since anything to do with reproduction seems most likely to induce gibbering meltdowns among the religious right — and they’re going to use their delusions to deny you good healthcare.