Indiana assisted suicide bill fails to protect objecting practitioners

Assisted suicide evolves from “assistance” to  “medical care”

Affirmation has serious consequences for objecting  Indiana physicians

Sean Murphy*

On 7 January, 2020, Representative Matt Pierce introduced HB1020: End of life options in the Indiana General Assembly. HB1020 is the fourth assisted suicide bill introduced by Pierce since 2017; three previous bills died in committee without hearings. Parts of HB1020 relevant to protection of conscience are reproduced on the Project website.

Overview

The bill permits physician assisted suicide for Indiana residents 18 years of age and older who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness likely to cause death within six months. [Full text]

New Hampshire assisted suicide bill introduced

Protection of conscience provision biased against objectors

Sean Murphy*

New Hampshire House Bill 1659 would legalize assisted suicide. Parts of the bill relevant to protection of conscience are reproduced on the Project website.

The bill permits physician assisted suicide for New Hampshire residents 18 years of age and older who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness likely to cause death within six months. Candidates who are capable of making and  communicating health care decisions must apply in writing for a lethal prescription (137-M:3); the application must be witnessed by two independent witnesses (137-M:4).  The candidate must apply personally; substitute medical decision makers cannot apply on behalf of a patient (137-M:3.III).

The bill imposes a number of obligations on physicians primarily responsible for treating a patient’s terminal illness (137-M:5) and upon physicians consulted by them about the illness (137-M:6).  These would be unacceptable to physicians who refuse to participate in assisted suicide for reasons of conscience.

Section 137-M:14 (Immunities) is the provision that is intended to protect objecting health care providers, which includes individuals and health care facilities.  The protection offered is biased in favour of those willing to participate in assisted suicide and insufficient to protect those unwilling to do so.  Specifically:

  • 139-M:14.I limits protection against civil, criminal and professional liability to persons willing to participate in assisted suicide; no protection is provided for those who refuse. It also prevents objecting institutional health care providers from taking action against employees who participate in assisted suicide on their premises.
  • 139-M:14.II protects both participants and non-participants equally, but also prevents objecting institutional health care providers from taking action against individuals who ignore prohibitions against assisted suicide on their premises.
  • 139-M14.III protects those providing assisted suicide drugs against negligence complaints, but does not similarly protect those who refuse to provide assisted suicide drugs.
  • 139-M14.IV declares that no health care provider is under a duty to participate in assisted suicide.  However, the provision is ambiguous because it is inconsistent with the lack of protection noted in 139-M4.I and III. 

Christian doctors continue the fight for conscience protections

Christian Medical & Dental Associations will appeal decision blocking Trump admin Conscience Rule

News Release

Becket

WASHINGTON – Religious medical professionals in New York have announced that they appealed a district court’s decision to block vital conscience protections for doctors and nurses. In New York v. HHS, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is defending Dr. Regina Frost and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA) from attempts by Planned Parenthood and New York officials to force religious doctors to perform life-ending procedures that violate their consciences. The Trump administration has until Jan. 6 to join the appeal from the district court’s decision, which struck down one of the administration’s signature regulations.

In May 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a Conscience Rule to better enforce longstanding, bipartisan laws that, for decades, have promised to allow religious doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals to serve patients without being required to violate their consciences. Medical professionals of all faith backgrounds and with moral objections rely on these well established protections. The Rule holds HHS funding recipients to agreements that they made under existing federal statutes to accommodate religious health professionals. But several states and abortion provider and advocacy organizations—including the State of New York and Planned Parenthood, which have long accepted HHS funds—immediately sued to avoid enforcement of their existing agreements under the Rule and to push religious healthcare professionals like Dr. Frost out of the medical profession.

“My faith is at the heart of who I am. It is what drives me to put the needs of women and their children first every day, and to serve everyone in my care with dignity and respect,” said Dr. Regina Frost. “If the government forces me to violate my faith and my medical judgment to perform abortions, I’ll have no choice but to leave the profession.”

Dr. Frost is an OB-GYN and one of nearly 19,000 medical professionals in CMDA serving vulnerable populations in the United States and abroad. Across the country, CMDA members serve the homeless, prisoners living with HIV, and victims of opioid addiction, sex trafficking, and gang violence. Overseas, CMDA members serve in war zones, refugee clinics, and remote areas without quality healthcare. The lawsuit by Planned Parenthood and New York needlessly threatens the health and well-being of at-risk, underserved populations across the globe. New polling shows that healthcare professionals are committed to serving all patients but are facing increasing pressures to perform in certain procedures, which they believe end life and violate their faith—and these pressures could force 91 percent of religious doctors out of the medical field.

In Nov. 2019, a New York district court ruled against the Conscience Rule. Yesterday, Dr. Frost and CMDA appealed this ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The deadline for the Trump administration to appeal the district court’s decision is Jan. 6, 2020.

“Like an ideological Grinch stealing conscience rights, Planned Parenthood is robbing not only religious doctors and nurses but also the patients that they serve,” said Daniel Blomberg, senior counsel at Becket. “To hear Planned Parenthood tell it, one pro-life OB-GYN is one too many. That’s wrong and it’s bad for healthcare. In a big, diverse country like ours, we can ensure that everyone will receive the care they need while still respecting the consciences of religious doctors and nurses.”

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, or Spanish.

New government publishes new guidelines for non-punishable abortions

Change will make it harder for hospitals to deny women seeking to terminate pregnancies in cases of rape or endangerment to their health.

Buenos Aires Times

The Health Ministry has published new guidelines for non-punishable abortions in Argentina, moving to guarantee access for those seeking to end pregnancies that are a result of rape or endanger the mother’s life.

The new protocol, published in the Official Gazette just three days after Alberto Fernández was sworn-in as president, is a move to guarantee access for those who meet the conditions.

“The protocol will be used as a guide, especially in cases where the law clearly allows for the interruption of pregnancies,” Health Minister Ginés González García told a press conference. . . the Health Ministry also advised that conscientious objection “will not be considered an institutional excuse to not comply with the law.” [Full text]

Doctors can object to procedures, not specific patients, under revised religious discrimination bill

RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon cautiously welcomed the revisions, saying the college will ‘carefully consider’ the revised bill.

News GP

Doug Hendrie

Under the revisions, conscientious objectors could refuse to provide treatments to which they objected on religious grounds, as long as the refusal is a blanket ban.

Speaking at a press conference, Attorney-General Christian Porter said the revised bill means it would be acceptable for a GP to, for example, refuse to ‘engage in hormone therapies’ for transgender patients broadly, but not for an individual patient only.

The revisions are intended to rule out discrimination, Mr Porter said. . . [Full text]