Respect Health-Care Workers; Protect Personal Rights and Professional Livelihoods

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 17, 2008 | Go to article overview

Respect Health-Care Workers; Protect Personal Rights and Professional Livelihoods


Byline: Joxel Garcia, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

There is no more sacred right than the right of conscience - the right to be guided by one's own cherished beliefs and moral convictions. In certain professional fields, like health care, questions of conscience are particularly likely to emerge. Thus, in most situations health-care workers have the right - under the law - to abstain from performing actions that violate their conscience. But this right has recently come under attack.

As a long-practicing OB-GYN, I can personally attest to the need for greater awareness and protection of health-care workers' rights under the law. Not once during my entire span of medical training and practice did anyone reference my legal rights to abstain from performing actions that contradicted my conscience. In reality, many health-care workers routinely face pressure to perform actions that violate their personal convictions.

On several occasions in the past three decades, Congress has passed laws protecting health-care workers' ability to act consistently with their rights of conscience. But there is mounting pressure to disregard these laws.

Thankfully, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has just proposed a regulation to increase awareness of and compliance with the law. When, some time after a 30-day period for public commentary (through Sept. 25), this regulation is officially adopted by HHS, many health-care workers will benefit from clearer guidance and better enforcement of the law, and they and won't have to sacrifice their personal convictions to preserve their professional livelihoods. And the regulation would secure institutions' rights under the law as well.

This should be viewed as a positive development and a welcome point of agreement across the political spectrum. Instead, it is being criticized by people who seem to think that health-care workers should be compelled to perform certain medical services against their will.

One prominent pro-abortion advocate was recently quoted by Congressional Quarterly as saying that it's really not acceptable to the people I represent that this administration is considering allowing doctors and nurses and pharmacists that have received their education to provide services to now be able to not provide those services if they don't want to. …

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