In January the Trump administration published a proposed DHHS rule titled, "Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care, Delegations of Authority." For decades the federal government, via several legislative amendments, has protected healthcare providers who object to performing, or object to assist in performing, certain medical procedures based on their freedom of conscience and religious exercise. While these protections moreover concern abortion they have been gradually expanded to include, for example, refusal to participate in assisted suicide. The proposed rule however vastly expands these protections. The administration is proposing a regulatory rule that would allow all health care personnel (as well as hospitals, labs, insurance companies and others) to refuse to provide any medical care to any person by claiming conscience, moral or religious objection. For example, a pediatrician could refuse to treat a child of gay parents or an emergency room nurse could deny providing a terminal patient end of life pain management. The proposed would also allow the health care worker to refuse to refer a patient or identify anyone or organization that in turn could refer. Critics of the proposed say the rule would effectively weaponize discrimination and professional medical associations have expressed concerns the rule would allow clinicians to violate their codes of medical ethics. These criticisms aside what is the theological basis, if any, that would legitimately allow claiming religious or moral exercise in denying health care?
During this 31 minute conversation the Reverend Patricia Lyons discusses, in sum, that while Christian theological teaching supports the rights of individuals (and their obligation) to follow their conscience, doing so should neither be without consequence as the proposed would allow nor should such protection be used to undermine justice in delivering healthcare without discrimination. The proposed she Reverend Lyons argues is not workable since it negates the providers obligation in recognizing the inherent dignity of all, undermines their commitment to their profession, erodes the state's obligation in delivering healthcare without prejudice, and altogether is a failure in addressing the common good.
The Reverend Patricia Lyons is Missioner for Evangelism an Community Engagement, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, Church House, Mount St. Alban, in Washington, D.C. She is also an Associate Priest at the Church of the Epiphany. Rev. Lyons was for several years chaplain, teacher and JK-12 Director of Service Learning at St. Stephen's and St. Agnes (Episcopal) School in Alexandria, VA. Reverend Lyons has also taught as an adjunct at the Virginia Theological Seminary. Reverend Lyons is an honors graduate from Harvard College. She holds a Master of Divinity degree from the Harvard Divinity School. She received her doctorate from Virginia Theological Seminary. Reverend Lyons has published numerous sermons, articles and book chapters on moral and spiritual development theory, as well as consulted for independent schools on moral formation and service learning programs.
If you're interested in a related essay on this topic, THCB recently posted my essay, "HHS Conscience Rule Would Grant Providers Sweeping Rights to Deny Care," it's at: http://thehealthcareblog.com/blog/2018/03/30/hhs-conscience-rule-would-grant-providers-sweeping-rights-to-deny-care/.