Religious or Moral Exemptions for Health Care Workers

May 3, 2019 at 5:34 pm | Posted in Abuse of Office, Fairness | Leave a comment
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U.S. Air Force surgeons Dr. Patrick Miller (left), Dr. Michael Hughes (right), and surgical technician SrA Ray Wilson from the 379th Expeditionary Medical Squadron, repair the ruptured achilles tendon of a servicemember on March 11, 2003. The doctors are performing this surgey at a field hospital in a forward-deployed location.

President Chump has just delighted religious conservatives by issuing a rule that will shield doctors, hospitals and other health-care providers who do not want to provide abortions, sterilizations, assisted suicide, unspecified provisions in Advance Directives (presumably statements such as “I do not want medical efforts to keep me alive if …”), compulsary vaccination (!), compulsary hearing screening, and compulsary treatment for mental health problems, and who do not want to even be obliged to tell or counsel patients about abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide.

Three informative news articles on this topic are here (by Ariana Eunjung Cha, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Amy Goldstein), here (by Ariana Eunjung Cha), and here (by Paige Winfield Cunningham).

This is a short-sighted approach.  It should lead to particular types of discrimination in hiring and employment.

In deciding whether to hire, or to re-assign or fire, or to promote a health-care worker, an employer has both the right and the duty to know whether the person is willing to perform all of the duties that are part of a given position, or is willing to perform only some of them. If only some of them, the employer has both the right and the duty to know which activities the employee will not perform.

The employer cannot wait for an emergency to obtain that information. The employer needs to know that information immediately, to ensure that all likely needs are adequately staffed by those who are willing to meet those needs. Any employer of health care workers therefore needs to require signed, witnessed statements by existing employees as well as by potential future employees.

The situation here is very much like that for concientious objectors in military service, except that heath care workers are typically not drafted into their health care roles.

The Weldon Amendment denies federal funds to Federal agencies, state agencies, and local governments if those government entities discriminate “on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions”. But that does not constrain non-govermental hospitals and medical practices.

This issue will inevitably be brought before the Supreme Court.

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