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The Big Picture

'Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Morons.' -- Vizzini from "The Princess Bride"

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Religion, moral conscience and health care

The Washington Post has an article up concerning a new Bush rule winding its way through the government towards becoming the law of the land.
A Bush administration proposal aimed at protecting health-care workers who object to abortion, and to birth-control methods they consider tantamount to abortion, has escalated a bitter debate over the balance between religious freedom and patients' rights.

You can read the article for more specific information on this, but the short of it is that doctors, nurses, pharmacists, etc. under this new rule can refuse to provide services to patients who desire them based on their own personal religious views. In other words, if a pharmacist is personally anti-birth control, then he can refuse to sell the pill, condoms, etc. If a nurse is anti-abortion and considers "plan B" abortion, then she can refuse to administer it to a rape victim. If an ambulance driver does not believe in being exposed to a woman who was having her period when she was ill then he would not have to give care to that woman.

That, on the surface, sounds quite reasonable. Why be forced to do something that you find morally reprehensible personally? But here is the problem:

What do you do about a white person who refuses to give care to a black person? It was only a mere few decades ago that that moral reprehension was in effect. Do we bring that back for white doctors who refuse to treat black patients on moral grounds? The same goes for gay patients, patients of another religion which is found to be "satanic" in its origin?

Just where do you draw the line when it comes to personal religious morals and those patients who violate them? Do you say it is acceptable to not give plan B to a patient, but not acceptable to refuse treatment to a black man?

No, the only real solution, and the real rule Bush and Co. should be pushing through is this: If you are not willing to fulfill all your duties as a doctor/nurse/pharmacist by giving your patients all that they require, then you should consider another line of work.

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