Friday, June 19, 2009

Rights of Conscience

The US Constitution lays out fundamental rights that preserve individual religious liberties and freedoms of conscience. 

For decades, workers in all sectors of our society have enjoyed legal protections with regard to their religious liberties and freedom of conscience. Of course, this unfortunately hasn't completely obliterated discrimination in the workplace, but it does provide the legal framework to protect the individual and to prosecute those who infringe on these rights. In general, these laws require that recipients of federal funds comply with all non-discrimination laws regarding race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability, sexual preference, etc... 

Various legislation has been passed that prohibit recipients of certain federal funds from discriminating against individuals or coercing individuals in the health care field from participating in actions they find morally or religiously objectionable. However, recently some groups have come to believe that rights of conscience and individual self determination apply to all, except those within the health care field. 

The piece of legislation in question is nothing new, but simply raises awareness to the fact that religious freedoms and rights of conscience against performing morally objectionable acts are, in fact, also protected. 

A few examples: The Conscience Clauses in various legislation throughout the 1970s restate the same. The Public Health Service Act of 1996 signed by WJ Clinton reinforces these laws. The Weldon Amendment of the Consolidated Appropriations Act in 2005 and 2008 as signed by GW Bush also strengthens these laws of our land. 

The most recent piece of legislation as signed by GW Bush and as castigated by BH Obama simply clarifies and further defines these specific laws which are already in effect, and have been so for almost 4 decades. These laws apply to hospitals, nursing homes, medical schools, dental schools, pharmacy schools, nursing schools, home health care services, etc.... and applies to an individual's rights of conscience with regards to elective sterilization, abortion, euthanasia, etc... 

The ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and other organizations and groups want to demand tolerance in all things except those things which are morally objectionable to Christians. In those areas they are insistent on compelling everyone to take part in some form or fashion, in abortion and sterilization, and eventually euthanasia. 

For some, the right of a woman to abort her child supercedes a physician's right and obligation to be true to his or her own conscience and his or her God. That is backwards. We cannot force people to act in a way to which they are strongly opposed. 

In fact, we take an oath to "do no harm, take part in no euthanasia or execution, perform no abortion, have no sexual relations with a patient, and to preserve the purity of life". Over the past 30 years many medical schools have abandoned this oath. Today only 14% of the oaths medical students take prohibit euthanasia, 8% prohibit abortion, and 3% sexual contact with a patient. 

We are losing our ethical bearing as a profession, as a society, and as a nation. These are important decisions that will determine how far the slippery slope we slide. Unfortunately, we are gaining speed with not much left to slow us.

No comments: