House committee defeats bill to allow ‘conscience’ refusal to provide or pay for medical services

Arkansas Times

Max Brantely

The House Public Health Committee today declined to endorse SB 289 which allows a medical practitioner, healthcare institution, or health insurance payer not to participate in a healthcare service that violates their conscience.

The vote was 8 for to 10 against, with Rep. Jim Dotson not voting and Chair Jack Ladyman abstaining.

An extensive presentation for the bill was followed by abbreviated public testimony, but it included heavyweight opposition from a former Supreme Court justice, UAMS and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.

Testimony included support from Surgeon General Gregory Bledsoe, speaking individually, who opposed the legislation in 2017. Since then, he said, circumstances have changed. Bledsoe, a candidate for lieutenant governor, said he saw no problem needing a solution then. Now, he said, said he feared federal intervention to force providers to do procedures they oppose. . . continue reading

Medical providers’ conscience bill passes

Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Michael R. Wickline

Legislation aimed at protecting medical providers’ “right of conscience” won the approval of the Arkansas Senate on Wednesday over a warning from an opponent that it would clear the way for any medical provider to withhold treatment for most reasons.

The Senate voted 27-6 to send Senate Bill 289 by Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, to the House for further consideration. The bill is called the “Medical Ethics and Diversity Act.”

Hammer said the bill is modeled on laws in Illinois and Mississippi.

“What this bill does is it provides a remedy that those medical providers who have a conscientious objection to be put in a situation that they prefer not to, that it provides them a means to defend themselves,” he said. . . [Full text]

Laxalt signs on to letter supporting “conscience protections” for health workers with religious objections

The Nevada Independent

Michelle Rindels

Republican gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Adam Laxalt has signed on to a letter supporting a new set of regulations that aims to protect health workers who don’t want to perform abortions, help transgender patients transition or take other actions because of religious or moral objections.

Laxalt joined 16 other attorneys general in signing the March 27 letter to Alex Azar, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The letter lauds the “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority” regulations, saying it’s important to return to obeying conscience protections enacted by Congress and restore the rule of law in Washington. . . [Full Text]

Arkansas panel votes to study health-care conscience bill

Arkansas News

John Lyon

LITTLE ROCK — A legislative panel voted Monday to conduct a study in the interim between sessions on a bill that would allow a health-care provider to refuse to provide a service that violates his or her conscience.

The House and Senate committees on public health, welfare and labor voted, without discussion, to study legislation by Rep. Brandt Smith, R-Jonesboro, that failed to advance out of the House public health panel during this year’s session.

House Bill 1628, titled The Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Act, would have allowed a person or institution that provides health care to refuse to participate in a non-emergency service that contradicts his or her religious, moral or ethical principles. It would have prohibited the person or institution from being punished for the refusal through criminal, civil or administrative action. . . [Full text]


Why It’s O.K. for Doctors to Participate in Executions

New York Times

Sandeep Jauhaur

On Thursday, Arkansas executed a 51-year-old convicted murderer named Ledell Lee, the first of four prisoners the state intends to execute by the end of the month. That would set a pace rarely if ever matched in the modern history of American capital punishment. The state’s rationale for its intended spree is morbidly pragmatic: The stock of one of its three execution drugs, the sedative midazolam, will expire at the end of April.

The three drugs in Arkansas’s execution protocol — midazolam; vecuronium bromide, a paralytic used during surgery that halts breathing; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart — are administered intravenously. The execution procedure therefore requires the insertion of catheters, controlled injection of lethal drugs and monitoring of a prisoner’s vital signs to confirm death. This makes it important that a doctor be present to assist in some capacity with the killing. . . [Full text]