Friday, December 6, 2013

Spirit and Life: Which rights should prevail?

Across the United States, people are worried about the future of our health care system -- myself included. Despite promises repeatedly made by President Obama that, "If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan," millions of Americans are already losing coverage that they liked and could afford because of regulations contained in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). And as Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey pointed out this week, "Obamacare's abortion mandate violates federal law and makes taxpayers complicit in the culture of death."

We as patients are worried and wondering what to do, but medical professionals are also worried. In the U.S. and internationally, doctors and nurses are having to choose between violating their consciences and violating laws and regulations. When Catholic doctors refuse to perform or refer for abortions, they come under attack. The USCCB itself is now being sued by the ACLU because a Catholic hospital in Michigan did not perform an abortion on a patient. Where do the rights of conscience of medical professionals end and the so-called "rights" to abortion and contraception begin? In the article below from HLI's Truth and Charity Forum, Joseph Meaney explores how conscience rights are being threatened in the medical community. Please consider sharing this article with your friends and family after reading it.     

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Fr Boquet signature
Father Shenan J. Boquet
President, Human Life International

Which Rights Should Prevail?

by Joseph Meaney

Joseph Meaney
Most agree that "might makes right" is a pathetic ethical standard with which to decide conflicting claims. Nonetheless, when conscience rights are the issue, this is frequently the approach that institutions and governments adopt.

An egregious example is the current Swedish governmental position that all medical personnel must be prepared to carry out any legal procedure they are ordered to perform. Conscientious objectors face legal sanctions and, in short order, dismissal from employment or even employability. The right to any form of professional conscientious objection is categorically denied to medical workers by the Swedish State. In France, a group of pharmacists who refused in conscience to dispense certain drugs (Morning After Pills) were taken to court and ultimately disbarred from exercising their profession. I could go on and on with similar real world examples.

How are such harsh measures justified by liberal democracies that self identify as protectors of an ever-expansive number of personal liberties? Ideological blindness and subverting the recognized hierarchy of human rights are the answer (See Msgr. Schooyan's book which examines this problem in detail: The Totalitarian Trends of Liberalism). Although usually not stated explicitly, some states/institutions value the basic human right not to be forced to violate one's conscience at a lower level than such rights as access to medical services or the right of autonomous choice of patients. The latter consideration is in some ways self-contradictory since the very same right to autonomy is being denied to the healthcare worker.

Many, intent on limiting conscience rights in the health sector, appeal to certain professional obligations and duties. They often use a "gate keeper" argument that medical professionals have been granted a legal monopoly over certain services/products in exchange for state-subsidized professional training. Now, health workers are required to make these services/products available to the general public with a high standard of safety. If a doctor refuses to perform an abortion, the monopolistic system can, in some circumstances, make it difficult or impossible for a woman to access the procedure elsewhere, unacceptably violating her rights, according to this view.

Less radical versions of this position would not require a medical professional to actively participate in a procedure they consider morally repulsive, but would force him/her to refer patients to another practitioner who is willing to provide it. How can such a "compromise" be reasonable and not destructive of the physician's moral integrity? It involves close material cooperation with what they consider to be gravely evil. Medical professionals who refuse to violate their consciences by giving referrals for procedures they oppose are following rock-solid principles. "I refuse to administer a deadly drug to patients in my care, and I further refuse to turn them over to agents who will do so." If it is wrong for a person to do something, then facilitating the very same evil action is also morally impermissible.
Continue reading on HLI's Truth and Charity Forum...