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My Care. Your Rights

by Kim Bellard, June 27, 2018

I have, it seems, been laboring under a misconception. All these years I liked to believe that the healthcare system was about the patient. That was naive. I knew that a few people in healthcare were too focused on the money part of things, but what I was not paying enough attention to was that, for some healthcare professionals, what they do is about their beliefs, not my care.

The case in point was the recent situation in Peoria, Arizona, where a young woman was denied service by her pharmacist. Nicole Arteaga was nine weeks pregnant when her doctor told her the baby’s development had ceased. The doctor gave her an option for a surgical procedure or for a prescription drug that was likely to cause her to miscarry, and she choose the latter.

The pharmacist understood what the drug did, questioned why she was taking it, and refused to refill it due to “ethical reasons” — which is permissible under Arizona law (and in several other states). As she detailed in a Facebook post:

Ms. Arteaga ultimately was able to fill her prescription at another pharmacy — across town . What if there hadn’t been another pharmacy in town, or another pharmacist who didn’t have a “moral objection” to filling her prescription? What if, for medical reasons, there hadn’t been time to investigate other options?

Example number two: the Supreme Court just overturned a California law that required “crisis pregnancy centers” to tell pregnant women about the availability of abortion services. These centers typically oppose abortion on religious grounds. Justice Kennedy concurred with the majority, claiming: “Governments must not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions.”

Governments have, of course, for years had no qualms about requiring abortion providers provide a number of messages that are contrary to their deepest convictions — some states require that they require pregnant women to get medically unnecessary ultrasounds before obtaining an abortion! — but apparently it matters whether you agree with the message or not.

None of this should, in 21st century America, be a surprise. We now have a “Conscience and Religious Freedom Center” within HHS, aimed at protecting “health care providers who refuse to perform, accommodate, or assist with certain health care services on religious or moral grounds.”

But it is not just federal law and it is not just about abortions. In Texas, for example, pharmacists have “exclusive authority” about whether to dispense a drug. They can choose when they do not wish to, and they don’t have to explain why then they opt not to.

Where does the line get drawn? What about a healthcare professional refusing to treat gay patients? What about one refusing to treat minority patients? What about male healthcare professional refusing to treat a female patient?.

You see, it’s not supposed to be about their religious or moral beliefs. They have every right to have them, and to express them. But when someone becomes a healthcare professional, it’s not supposed to be about them or their beliefs. It is supposed to be about what is best for the patient. It is about using their medical knowledge and training to help the patient as best they can, to the utmost of their abilities.

Our healthcare professionals don’t have to be like us. They don’t even have to like us, and they certainly don’t have to agree with us. But when we can’t depend on them doing what is best for us, then we’ve got a real problem.

This post is an abridged version of the posting in Kim Bellard’s blogsite. Click here to read the full posting

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