Monday, April 13, 2009

Conscience Clause, my Ass!

by Rich Miles

Back in college, back during the last Ice Age, we used to sit around in someone's dorm room discussing the most arcane shit - deep-level discussions, or so we thought, on stuff that no one else had ever thought of, or so we thought. We actually used to do this without the aid of intoxicants most of the time. It was kinda fun to reduce shit to its lowest possible intellectual common denominator. Or at least it was back then. Or at least, we thought so. Back then.

Apparently, somebody still likes to do this sort of thing, except that they do it in ways that have the potential to harm or even kill other people. The method they use to do this is the executive order now commonly referred to as the "Conscience Clause".

It's one of those messes we knew we'd have to clean up after Shrub left office. He put it in place with one foot out the door, within the last weeks of his term, and quietly so no one would know about it till he was well and truly gone. What it means is this:

If a doctor or other medical practitioner is asked to perform a procedure or provide medical care or medicine, and that practitioner believes it would offend his/her moral precepts to perform the procedure, the doc may refuse to involve him/herself in the procedure, and the executive order in essence lets the medico off the hook for any consequences of the refusal - like, if the patient dies or something. You know - consequences.

I think this concept sucks.

Y'see, I didn't become a doctor because I didn't want to be confronted with such moral dilemmas. (Among other reasons - like, I'm skeeved out by the sight of blood and guts). But my objection to MY participating in such behaviors is not moral in nature, nor is it a function of my conscience. No, it's a choice I made many years ago - not to be a doctor.

And it's my belief that those who DO make the choice to be a medical practitioner make in that same breath a choice to do ANYTHING that's required to be a medical practitioner. Not just the parts of it that are fun, or easy, or don't cause one moral qualms. ALL of it.

And if one does choose to be a doctor (or more to the point, a pharmacist) and then at some future point refuses to do some part of his/her legitimate practice, then that person should lose his/her license to practice medicine. Lose one's RIGHT to be a doctor or other practitioner.

That's my opinion - what's yours? How many patients have to die or suffer other serious consequences of such a refusal before this stops even being an issue? Before one may not accept a state-granted license to practice medicine at any level, and then refuse to provide this care?

The short answer to this quandary is, if you have such strong moral beliefs that you could actually do that, refuse to provide any measure of medical care including the rendering of pharmaceuticals to a person whose illness you are unlikely to know with certainty, to anyone, then you should not go into the business of providing medical care of any kind to anyone.

That's my opinion - what's yours?

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