Theocratic Health Care

The Bush Administration is shoveling "midnight regulations" out the doors of agencies faster than a New Hampshire homeowner does snow off his sidewalk in January. One of the most egregious is a new regulation by the Health and Human Services Department that allows the morals of health care providers to trump those of patients. As the Los Angeles Times reports:

The Bush administration announced its "conscience protection" rule for the healthcare industry Thursday, giving doctors, hospitals, and even receptionists and volunteers in medical experiments the right to refuse to participate in medical care they find morally objectionable.

"This rule protects the right of medical providers to care for their patients in accord with their conscience," said outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt.

The right-to-refuse rule includes abortion and other aspects of healthcare where moral concerns could arise, Leavitt's office said, such as birth control, emergency contraception, in vitro fertilization, stem cell research and assisted suicide.

In addition, such "health care providers" may not have to refer patients to other practitioners who would respect the moral choices of patients. 

reason warned that this was coming:

Can pharmacies, stem cell labs, or abortion clinics refuse to hire people who believe their activities are evil? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services doesn’t think so. The agency is circulating draft regulations that would outlaw employment discrimination on the grounds of religious and moral beliefs by any entity that receives the department’s money.

Since Washington’s subsidies are so ubiquitous, the rule would apply even to local pharmacies, because the feds pay for some prescriptions. In effect, the government’s money is serving as a Trojan horse for the administration’s moral agenda.

And reason noted that there was a simple solution for those whose consciences might be offended:

“Religious freedom is an important part of the history of this country,” Richard S. Myers, a professor at Ave Maria School of Law, told The Washington Post. “People who have a religious or moral belief should not be forced to participate in an act they find abhorrent.” Myers is correct. But why should the religious beliefs of others trump those of patients and employers? People who don’t want to participate in medical procedures they find abhorrent have a simple solution: They can choose to work elsewhere.

Whole LAT article here

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  • ed||

    giving doctors, hospitals, and even receptionists and volunteers in medical experiments the right to refuse to participate in medical care they find morally objectionable

    That's great. How about we axpand these rights to include businessmen?

    Giving restaurant owners the right to refuse to participate in government smoking bans.

  • ||

    Thank you Ronald. The way the debate over this has been phrased by the conservatives is deceptive and disingenuous. It has nothing to do with the right of a service provider to refuse service, and everything to do with the right of an employer to refuse employment.

  • Jeff P||

    Just curious: if a doctor finds a 19 year old dropout giving birth to her third toe-headed child (father unknown) reprehensible, can he refuse to assist in delivery?

  • ||

    Bush is truely the worst president ever. fuck him.

  • ||

    domoarrigato-

    Close. Lincoln, the two Roosevelts, then Bush.

  • Ska||

    I'm no doctor, and I know very little about practicing medicine, but wouldn't the Hippocratic (sp) oath jammie make you responsible to the patient's health first and foremost? I know it doesn't mean shit to the pharmacist who won't sell plan b to a fling, but it would handle that doctor who wouldn't do an abortion.

    Meh. This just doesn't bother me as much as a lot of other things. I doubt I'd have trouble finding a doctor or pharmacist who puts their patient's concerns (and insurance information) ahead of their morals. Maybe more of a problem in Bible country.

  • ||

    "Maybe more of a problem in Bible country."
    Yup. Especially rural areas where it might be a little harder to just walk around the block to the next pharmacy or clinic that isn't staffed with Christianist pricks. Yeah no hardship in those places.

  • ||

    This is a good example of why the GOP is out of power. Too much focus on invading the Middle East with gay aborted stem cell fetuses, and not enough focus on real problems. Good riddance.

  • ||

    Well, what if there suddenly becomes a registry where doctors' moral views are kept? Then if you happen to hate abortion and want to patronize one of those doctors who refuses to perform them, you can take your chances with them. And if you want your doctor to never screw you like that, you can choose one that won't refuse service on these grounds.

    Because honestly, a person should be able to choose to do or not to do something according to personal beliefs. That is called freedom. A doctor suddenly breaking a contract because of them is not ok, but having all the information ahead of time is a great idea.

  • ||

    Also,

    "This rule protects the right of medical providers to care for their patients in accord with their conscience," said outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt.



    More specifically, this rule protects the right of medical providers to not care for their patients in accords with their conscience. His statement is obviously a misdirection and I hope smart people see it for what it is, an attempt to confuse the reader/listener.

  • Dello||

    The ONLY problem I see with this is that people who won't do the job they're hired for can't be fired. Them not doing the job for moral (or any other reason) is beside the point.

    I have faith that the market will work out a way to serve the needs (and desires) of the people. Always has, unless the governemnt "helps".

  • VM||

    +1, Lamar!

  • Zeb||

    This is clearly intended to make the pro-life crowd happy, but I can imagine other scenarios coming up that most such people would find unacceptable. Suppose a pharmacist believes that opiate pain killers are immoral, or antibiotics. God created pain and infections for a reason, who are we to mess with that?

  • ||

    One of the most egregious is a new regulation by the Health and Human Services Department that allows the morals of health care providers to trump those of patients.

    Way to mischaracterize the rule.

    What it does is prevent employers from requiring employees from adhering to employer policy on providing care.

    Right now, any health care provider is free to provide or refuse to provide abortions, birth control, etc. according to their preference (as it should be). This rule merely says that they cannot be retaliated against for doing so, eliminating the ability of an employer (such as a hospital or clinic) who provides those services to discipline/terminate a provider who refuses.

    You aren't seriously arguing that the government should dictate the consciences of health care providers, are you?

  • ||

    People who don't want to participate in medical procedures they find abhorrent have a simple solution: They can choose to work elsewhere.

    They should form a union, so they could all have jobs, but not work.

  • nicole||

    You aren't seriously arguing that the government should dictate the consciences of health care providers, are you?

    You aren't seriously arguing that the government should dictate who you can and cannot fire, and why, are you?

  • Neu Mejican||

    nicole | December 19, 2008, 1:17pm | #
    You aren't seriously arguing that the government should dictate the consciences of health care providers, are you?

    You aren't seriously arguing that the government should dictate who you can and cannot fire, and why, are you?


    These two comments highlight why this is such a poorly conceived regulation.

    Does Bush really believe that it will stand past January?

  • ||

    RC, so you don't think that people will warp the "intent" of the law at some point? Even if the intent of the law is as you say, what's to prevent a doctor from claiming the language in his/her own defense in a suit portraying him/her doing exactly what everyone else here is pointing to?

  • ||

    What kind of a libertarian are you? Doctors own themselves just as much as the patients. You sound like some fascist liberal hear, demanding that the government coerce doctors to perform labor that violates their concience.

    Being pro liberty means being pro liberty even when it is inconvenient to your politics.

  • ||

    I love Ronald Bailey's writing, but that opening analogy is more tortured than a Guantanamo waterboardee (yes, that's how you do it).

  • jasno||

    So if a health care worker believes Bush is evil, and Bush shows up in their E.R. with a life threatening condition, they can refuse to treat him?

    Awesome.

  • ||

    Chad Myers, CNN's meteorologist, makes a bid for a Bailey:

    CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers had never bought into the notion that man can alter the climate and the Vegas snowstorm didn't impact his opinion. Myers, an American Meteorological Society certified meteorologist, explained on CNN's Dec. 18 "Lou Dobbs Tonight" that the whole idea is arrogant and mankind was in danger of dying from other natural events more so than global warming.

    "You know, to think that we could affect weather all that much is pretty arrogant," Myers said. "Mother Nature is so big, the world is so big, the oceans are so big - I think we're going to die from a lack of fresh water or we're going to die from ocean acidification before we die from global warming, for sure."

    Wow. That's just heaps of stupid poured atop a mountain made of dumb.

    According to Myers, it's arrogant to think that man could affect something as big as the weather or the oceans by virtue of our carbon dioxide output. Besides, sneers Myers, we'll probably die first because of what our carbon dioxide output is doing to the oceans. Which are so big that it would be arrogant to think we could affect them.

    You know, we'll deserve what we get in terms of nature's wrath.

    Also, for the record, Lou Dobbs is a First Class, A Number 1 Douchebag. Someone should Curly Jefferson his ass.

  • ||

    If we already require hospitals and pharmacies to provide antibiotics and disinffect rooms and instruments, we require one-use needles and syringes rather then boiling the old school glass ones. Everyone would be up in arms if a pharmacist refused to provide a prescribed antibiotic or painkiller. So why is it that suddenly requiring them provide a birth control pill is suddenly a violation of their moral right that requires protection under law, while the rest of the impositions are simply accepted as a matter of fact? They are defacto government sanctioned gate keepers of medicine and medical services and they knew this before they got into the business.

  • Zeb||

    "Doctors own themselves just as much as the patients"

    Yes, and if they don't like doing what their employer asks them to, the can find work elsewhere. Seems a pretty libertarian solution to me.

  • ||

    How about extending this to when the Dr. says the patient needs and could use marijuana THEN WHAT FUCKERS? Do we just overlook that little moral difference in light of the stupid laws given to us by stupid people?

    This will only play out in a few places. All the doctors and pharmacists want is $$$$$$ to even begin to talk about morals in the same breath is almost comical.

  • Mike Laursen||

    I agree with Dee, if I understood Dee's point. If a health care worker gets to refuse to provide government-approved medicines and treatments on moral grounds, shouldn't they also get to provide unapproved medicines and treatments on moral grounds?

  • Dick Clark||

    I am not sure what is unlibertarian about the quoted regulations. Everyone should be free to ply his or her trade as they wish, so long as they do not aggress against another. If someone believes a certain mode of treatment to be immoral, they should be free to refrain from being party to it. The real unlibertarian law is the one that requires prescriptions for drugs. Without such control by the government, this would be a non-issue. And besides, this isn't really an issue anyway. Go to getthepill.com if you are in a bind and need emergency contraception.

  • ||

    You aren't seriously arguing that the government should dictate who you can and cannot fire, and why, are you?

    Absolutely not. I don't like the new rule at all - I say let people make their own decisions and take the consequences, at all levels.

    But criticizing this rule as "allow[ing] the morals of health care providers to trump those of patients" certainly implies that health care providers should not be permitted to let their consciences be their guide in providing services. I don't think that's a road we want to go down.

  • Dick Clark||

    I am not sure what I was reading, but on a second look it was obvious that the regs in fact invade the employer-employee relationship. Mea culpa.

  • Tim of Angle||

    "allows the morals of health care providers to trump those of patients"?

    So health care providers are slaves to their patients? An odd position for "libertarians" to take. I guess the "reason" in "reason magazine" means "my reason trumps your reason". Good to have that out in the open.

  • ||

    Wait, is Ron arguing that doctors be compelled to participate in assisted suicide? WTF?

    I fully support the right of healthcare workers to refuse to provide "treatments" they find objectionable. I also fully support the right of hospitals to fire without cause.

    It's disgusting how quicky some "libertarians" will call for big government intervention the minute the "abortion" word is used. Abortion is not so sacred that it trumps the liberty of physicians.

  • Formerly Jennifer||

    So, under this logic, it would be perfectly okay for the sporting goods clerk at Wal-Mart to refuse to sell anyone guns, ammo, or knives because he is a vegan pacifist?

  • ||

    This kind of bullshit is why I'm not resubscribing to Reason. I'm not willingly paying the salary of anyone who's chomping at the bit to use government violence to attack the right of individuals to refuse to do something they find morally objectionable.

  • ||

    One of the most egregious [sic] is a new regulation by the Health and Human Services Department that allows the morals of health care providers to trump those of patients.

    In other words, if a health care provider decides not to provide a service on moral grounds [why would ANYONE need to have or provide an excuse to refuse giving service is beyond me...], then he would be ALLOWED so [as if he needed permission] by this regulation. Ron Bailey seems to find this objectionable. Maybe Liberty is becoming passe.

    Ok, so if I study medicine and open a practice, I ipso facto become my patient's slave, in Reason's twisted world. Or at least, that's what I gather from this blog. I do not have an objection against abortion, but I do object to the State or the courts bullying practitioners to do abortions or other procedures they do not want to perform on ANY grounds. Practitioners still OWN their labor and exchange it FREELY, as far as I know . . . Or did this country become Cuba, while I was out?

  • ||

    So, under this logic, it would be perfectly okay for the sporting goods clerk at Wal-Mart to refuse to sell anyone guns, ammo, or knives because he is a vegan pacifist?

    Formerly Jennifer, any person can refuse giving a service or a good he or she possesses. In the scenario you are proposing, if Walmart finds the clerk's attitude not in concordance with their policy, Walmart can dismiss the clerk, but Walmart cannot MAKE that person sell something he or she finds objectionable. If I was a supervisor, I would probably just get another clerk to do the job.

    What I find outrageous is 2 things. One, Ron's outrage, because somehow it makes me think a medical provider HAS to give service, as if he or she were a slave. Second, that the government has to impose a rule on this matter, as if people were children in a playground.

  • Frank||

    I'm not sure what the regulation does or what the author is arguing for or against (as seems to be the case for many commenters) but I think there are 2 statements that we (libertarians) can all agree on:

    Any employer should be able to refuse to hire an individual who claims they would refuse to their job, regardless of the individual's reason. Likewise, absent some pre-existing contractual agreement, an employer should be able to fire an employee who refuses to do their job, regardless of the employee's reason.

    and

    Any healthcare provider should be able to refuse to treat anyone (for whatever reason) as long as said healthcare provider is a private entity.

    Now that that is settled, if you really want to be pissed, click my name.

  • Thomas||

    Everybody has the right to refuse an offer to by a service or product.

    This is a trade issue between employees and employers, between providers and customers. People are free to limit what services they provide. States should not limit that freedom.

  • Preglib||

    As Lew Rockwell pointed out on his blog, this piece is the worst Orwellian writing I've seen in a long time. Criticizing the Bush administration for allowing medical providers to practice some freedom is not the type of writing I want to see in a libertarian publication.

  • iamse7en||

    What's wrong with these institutions reserving their right to refuse?

    Free minds and free markets. Damn it, let liberty reign you libertarians.

  • MJ||

    The government not aloowing your employer to fire you for not performing a task that violates your morals is "theocracy"?

    And you are trying to sell that position to the general public? Good luck.

    I am sympathetic to the idea that employers, particularly private ones, should be able to terminate employees who are unwilling to perform a task necessary to their jobs. But this weak beer is not "theocracy", not even close.

  • ||

    "Theocratic"??? Either position could be termed theocratic. The vast majority either put their faith in God and understand and fight the evils of this broken world OR they put their faith in the state to create earthly utopias, "fairness", "equality", etc. etc. Worshipping men and the state and expecting THEM to create heaven on earth and "rightness" (careful here, we are touching "absolutism"!) is just as "theocratic" as traditional religious theocracy. Calling it "secular" does not mean there is a moral or valueless vacuum. That just says state worship should prevail because it is supposedly not "religious".

  • james_joyce||

    Yikes, please tell me this article is just poorly phrased. You meant to emphasize the problems this causes between employers and employees rather than between employees and customers, right? Right?

  • ||

    Hmm...Government...Morals...Theocracy?

    "Come, let us reason..."

    Harvard President John Thornton Kirkland, speaking to Massachusetts Politicians in 1816, summed up the "Moral Rule" for all policy:

    "In these exigencies of our moral relations, our way obscured, our strength insufficient, shall we not look beyond this narrow world, this limited sphere;--and hear the call, invoke the aid of heaven-born religion? Let us ally ourselves to the power that made us.

    VIRTUE IS GOD"S LAW. IT IS UNDER THE PATRONAGE AND PROTECTION OF A REWARDING AND AVENGING DEITY.--By his unalterable will, virtue and happiness are, in the ultimate result, bound together in an indissoluable chain.

    Think not, short-sighted presumptuous mortal, to make a computation about the possible advantage of doing wrong in a single instance.

    Never imagine that you have an inducement to attempt to serve or deliver yourself by a departure from right--or any reason to be discouraged from duty by a doubt of final support and reward.

    Say you that natural religion leaves these truths open to question? we have the articulate voice of God, an extraordinary light from heaven to dispel every doubt, to make them clear and certain.

    The christian revelation establishes the doctrine of the universal and absolute safety and final benefit of virtue--of the inevitable ruin of vice..."

    Remember, Germany, from 1933 to 1945 had LAWS requiring people to do certain evil things. Your choice...obey or else...directly in contrast with Dr. Kirkland's
    Theological basis for American law. Which would Reason indicate is best for anyone's well-being?

  • John Delano||

    It would be nice if reason ton a libertarian (pro-property rights) position. Both health care provider and patient have the right of self ownership. The state should not tell anyone what professions are forbidden. On;y the consumers should by not doing business with those they don't find acceptable.

    Forcing one to sell a service is forcing a particular morality on someone.

  • John Delano||

    It would be nice if reason took a libertarian (pro-property rights) position. Both health care provider and patient have the right of self ownership. The state should not tell anyone what professions are forbidden. On;y the consumers should by not doing business with those they don't find acceptable.

    Forcing one to sell a service is forcing a particular morality on someone.

  • John Delano||

    It would be nice if reason ton a libertarian (pro-property rights) position. Both health care provider and patient have the right of self ownership. The state should not tell anyone what professions are forbidden. Only the consumers should by not doing business with those they don't find acceptable.

    Forcing one to sell a service is forcing a particular morality on someone.

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