Conscience Protection in AK

The below letter was sent to Arkansas Governor, Asa Hutchinson, to thank him for signing the Medical Ethics and Diversity Act into law.

The letter was sent by CMA, in partnership with The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, which represents more than 30,000 healthcare professionals committed to promoting and upholding Hippocratic medicine’s fundamental principles.

Together with these likeminded organizations, CMA remains dedicated to defending your rights to conscience and religious freedom and upholding the sanctity of life.
Governor Hutchinson, 
We write to you today to thank you for signing legislation providing protection of the conscience rights of medical professionals. We speak on behalf of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), the Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CDMA), the Catholic Medical Association (CMA), and the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds), together representing approximately 30,000 physicians across the United States. Our members are uniquely impacted by issues of conscience rights as we strive to offer compassionate and excellent healthcare to our patients – both born and preborn.

Fundamental to the unique physician-patient relationship is the concept of a fiduciary relationship – the trust that the patient has in his or her physician, to do and recommend what is in the best interest of the patient.  That trust stems from the centuries-old Hippocratic oath, a vow that all physicians take to do no harm to their patients. This Oath is the basis of the doctor-patient relationship, and is the cornerstone of medical ethics for all physicians. 

The Hippocratic oath and its promise to “do no harm” has been under attack for the better half of the past century through concerted attempts to use punitive legal coercion to force healthcare professionals to recommend or perform the killing of their patients. This coercion has resulted in a need for conscience protections for those physicians operating within the bounds of Hippocratic Medicine, which explicitly separates medical care from the intentional killing of human beings.  Hippocratic physicians must be able to exercise professional judgment for the best interest of all of their patients, born and preborn, without fear of negative career or legal implications as a result of their decisions. 

Opponents to conscience rights legislation may claim that current laws provide conscience protection, and that protections like those made into law in Arkansas are not necessary. But existing protections are hollow, as none of these statutes allow a physician who has been discriminated against to sue on their own behalf. All of the current conscience protection laws require the Department of Health and Human Services to sue on the behalf of the physician. It is anticipated then that under the Biden Administration, and HHS Secretary Becerra, physicians have little to no legal recourse against discrimination on the basis of acting according to the Hippocratic Oath and their conscience. 

We, as a coalition of medical associations, applaud the work of your office to protect the conscience   rights of medical practitioners, and hope that other state leaders will follow in the steps of Arkansas to ensure medical professionals operating in accordance with the Hippocratic oath remain able to do so. Medical professionals are more than a public utility and we should not be forced or bullied into performing procedures, treatments or therapies which kill our patients or leave them permanently injured. Additionally, physicians need to be able to legally defend themselves against such discrimination and bullying when we refuse to do so. 

AAPLOG, CMA, CMDA and the ACPeds, alongside our 30,000 members across the country, thank you and your fellow legislators for your leadership on the issue of conscience rights for medical professionals, and invite you to reach out to our organizations should you have any questions. 

Respectfully, 
The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine
American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists American College of Pediatricians Catholic Medical Association Christian Medical and Dental Associations

COVID-19 Vaccines

The Guild has been closely following the development, and now distribution, of vaccines for COVID-19. There has been much written on this topic and we are in particular very thankful to the USCCB for their recent guidance on this important topic.

We will be posting our detailed thoughts on all of this shortly. In the meantime, we would like to provide some resources that we hope will be helpful in thinking through this important issue.

If you have questions or would like more information please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Conscience Protections Struck Down!

CMA Responds After Two Federal Judges Block Conscience Protection Rule 

Philadelphia, PA—The Catholic Medical Association is disappointed to learn two federal judges ruled to block The Department of Health and Human Services’ Conscience Protection Rule.

CMA previously expressed its support of HHS’ Conscience Rule, which aims to “protect healthcare providers, individuals, and other health care entities from having to provide, participate in, pay for, or refer for services which violate their conscience.”

“The protection of conscience is essential to the nature of every human life. It is furthermore a critical component of our role as health care workers. Without the freedom to exercise conscience, patients will no longer be able to trust in us never to abandon them,” said CMA President, Dr. John Schirger.

CMA believes the courts’ actions violate religious freedom and put the lives of patients at risk.

“The ruling is based in part on a lack of evidence of complaints about the rule. Conscience should be protected in principle and from the outset. It is unreasonable to require violations of conscience before conscience can be protected,” said Barbara Golder, M.D., J.D., Editor-in-Chief of CMA’s Linacre Quarterly.

Back in May of 2019, Co-Chair of CMA’s Ethics Committee, Dr. Marie Hilliard, warned of the importance of conscience rights when HHS initially shared its Conscience Rule.

“Without this protection, healthcare workers cannot be true advocates for our patients, especially if the best interest of the patient is being violated. As Catholic healthcare professionals, we never abandon patients even if it means we must transfer their care if they are requesting a procedure that violates their well-being or our professional integrity. Thus, this final rule is very protective of not only professionals but of the human beings served,” said Dr. Hilliard.

“The patient’s autonomy does not supersede the conscience of a physician. Therefore, the physician must be free to refuse to participate in immoral procedures, and free to refuse to refer to other providers who might be willing to perform such procedures,” said Dr. Lester Ruppersberger, OBGYN and Past President of CMA.

CMA is hopeful the courts will come to understand the need to protect the conscience rights of healthcare workers in the country and reverse their decisions.

“It must not be forgotten that when a health care professional refuses to perform procedures or recommend therapies based on a conscientious objection, they do so as not to violate or injure the physical, mental or spiritual health of their patients,” said Dr. Greg Burke, Co-Chair of CMA’s Ethics Committee.

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The Catholic Medical Association is a national, physician-led community of over 2,300 healthcare professionals consisting of 109 local guilds. CMA mission is to inform, organize, and inspire its members, in steadfast fidelity to the teachings of the Catholic Church, to uphold the principles of the Catholic faith in the science and practice of medicine.

 

Jill Blumenfeld

Communications Manager

blumenfeld@cathmed.org