Have you heard this phrase—“healthcare freedom of conscience”? You should know about it, because you might encounter this concept at a very tough moment. Here’s a scenario you might experience: You do everything right about end-of-life decisions. You have “the talk” with your adult children. They understand your wishes. You write everything down. You created a living will, durable power of attorney, and healthcare proxy.
Then the dreaded moment comes. It triggers the actions specified in all the legal documents. But the attending physician and nurses won’t carry out your wishes, citing “healthcare freedom of conscience.”
Now what? This could happen, especially if you live in Idaho, Louisiana or Mississippi, but it could also happen anywhere. Idaho, for example, has a brand new comprehensive healthcare freedom of conscience law. Any healthcare professional can refuse to participate in any service that violates his or her moral conscience. This includes end-of-life treatment and care. Healthcare providers can also refuse to participate in dispensing contraceptives, abortions, stem cell research, assisted suicide and more.
A limited version of healthcare freedom of conscience has been around for a long time. Thirty-six years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in the famous Roe v. Wade case. Soon after, Congress passed a bill that allowed physicians and nurses to refuse on moral grounds to participate in abortions or sterilizations. The bill was introduced by Senator Frank Church of Idaho.
What do you think of the broad definition of healthcare conscientious objection? Should someone who chose to go into the medical field have the legal right to refuse end-of-life treatments and care? Have you ever encountered a scenario like the one I described above?
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