David Savage reports at the Los Angeles Times about some of Bush’s last-minute mischief.

The outgoing Bush administration is planning to announce a broad new “right of conscience” rule permitting medical facilities, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare workers to refuse to participate in any procedure they find morally objectionable, including abortion and possibly even artificial insemination and birth control.

Under these rules, healthcare workers not only can refuse to participate in abortions; they could refuse to provide information about abortion, or birth control, including morning-after pills.

The new rules appear to cover just about everyone who works in the healthcare industry, including pharmacists and technicians. Someone could refuse to clean instruments he thinks might be used in a procedure he doesn’t like. Wouldn’t this wreak havoc with hospital procedures?

Seems to me that this rule sets up situations in which everybody in the hospital is second-guessing the doctors’ orders. Remember the ambulance driver who refused to take a woman in severe pain from a hospital to an abortion clinic? She was promptly and rightfully fired and another ambulance driver was called. Imagine what would happen if every such circumstance required multiple phone calls and negotiations?

The ambulance-driving woman sued the ambulance company that fired her for discriminating against her religious beliefs. Part of her claim rested on her opinion that the drive to the abortion clinic was not an emergency. Her opinion. She was a bleeping ambulance driver, not a physician.

Already, pharmacies are refusing to fill birth-control prescriptions. There are documented cases of LGBT people being refused medical services and pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for antibiotics and prenatal vitamins because they didn’t like the clinic the prescription came from. And contraceptive pills are prescribed for many reasons other than birth control. In some circumstances a woman’s health depends on hormone regulation.

The implications of this nonsense go a lot further than abortion. If everyone in the hospital is second-guessing the doctors and deciding what tasks they will or will not do based on half-assed information, it could jeopardize everyone‘s health care.

There is a simple solution to health-care workers with a “conscience” problem — find another line of work.

8 thoughts on “Conscience?

  1. I’m looking forward to ‘conscience’ laws protecting Amish bus drivers who refuse to drive, and vegetarian butchers who refuse to sell meat.

    I think the whole thing is founded on a completely distorted understanding of the word ‘conscience’. Conscience is supposed to govern your actions–not the actions of other people (who, after all, have their own consciences).

  2. Doesn’t Dumbass know that 5 minutes after taking the oath, Obama will sign off to revoke this nonsense? So for the love of mercy, don’t schedule medical procedures of any kind between now and Jan. 20th!

  3. Think this through troops. Suppose W was admitted to the hospital with chest pains. Maybe all the staff would refuse to treat him on the moral grounds they don’t wish to prolong his life. Methinks suddenly Bush would believe that professionalism is supposed to trump opinion.

  4. I’ve got no problem with people exercising their consciences, until it threatens the consciences (and health and safety) of their clients or citizens or however you wish to frame it. I was a conscientious objector (perhaps the first, possibly still the only fully and legally recognized exception to normative practice) during the Vietnam War. And what I did not get to do was to go out into the battlefield and march around with my little conscientious objection to the war, shouting “No! No!” Rather, I got to go into a different line of work (in my case, some great opportunities in community organizing and some no-so-great opportunities in emptying bedpans). When I say I’m pro choice, I don’t simply mean that I stand for women’s reproductive freedom. I also stand for the freedom of bigots to choose not to participate in activities that support reproductive freedom. But that does not mean they can just stand there and obstruct others’ freedom of choice.

    So I propose that such “prisoners of conscience” be treated as I was: you can refuse to participate in the objectionable activity, but you pay a price in community service. It was good enough for conscientious objectors in WWII and the Vietnam War — it should be good enough for these dipshits.

  5. Doug #4, I wish the conclusion of your hypothetical were so, but it flies in the face of how authoritarians operate. There is a set of rules for the little people, and another lax set for the elite. I saw it at the bank where I worked – an embezzling CFO got off with a loan merely requiring her to pay back what she stole, versus a teller, who could be fired if they were out of balance more than a few days. We’ve been seeing it with the collossal bailouts of Wall Street – made by the same people who created the messes therein. Nixon famously expressed it as “when the President does it, it’s not illegal”.

  6. Joan: Doesn’t Dumbass know that 5 minutes after taking the oath, Obama will sign off to revoke this nonsense?

    This was my first reaction, too, but apparently the way these things work, it can take YEARS for the next administration to undo these last-minute “instant” changes. There’s something very odd and unbalanced about that, but that seems to be the way it works. Far, far better to prevent the nonsense in the first place.

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