by Todd Beeton, Fri Mar 20, 2009 at 11:28:22 AM EDT
Remember those last minute regulations Bush slipped in on his way out the door in December? One of them was the truly dangerous Health and Human Services "conscience" rule, which, as WaPo explains:
...cuts off federal funding for thousands of state and local governments, hospitals, health plans, clinics and other entities if they do not accommodate doctors, nurses, pharmacists or other employees who refuse to participate in care they feel violates their personal, moral or religious beliefs.
The rule was sought by conservative groups that argued that workers were increasingly being fired, disciplined or penalized in other ways for trying to exercise their "right of conscience."
Many groups advocating on behalf of women's health, abortion rights and end of life choice have called for the Obama administration to overturn the rule and last month Obama-appointed officials at Health and Human Services concurred:
"We've been concerned that the way the Bush rule is written, it could make it harder for women to get the care they need," said an HHS official who spoke on the condition of anonymity for the same reason. "It is worded so vaguely that some have argued it could limit family-planning counseling and even potentially blood transfusions and end-of-life care."
On March 10th, the proposal to rescind the rule entirely was announced and a 30-day public comment phase instituted. That public comment period ends April 9th. What's likely to happen at the end of this phase? One would think all out repeal, but the administration has signaled its willingness to move on the issue. WaPo again:
Administration officials stressed that the proposal will be subject to 30 days of public comment, which could result in a compromise. They said they remain committed to seeking a middle ground but acknowledged that will not always be possible.
Which underscores how important it is that the public comments they do receive between now and April 9th are not overwhelmingly against rescinding the rule. We need to represent. To that end, Compassion and Choices, a nonprofit that seeks to improve care and expand choice at the end of life, has launched an easy to use public comment tool on their website.
Compassion and Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee at HuffPo:
Now is the time to raise our voices for patient choice and autonomy. From now until April 9th we must urge the Obama administration to repeal Bush's last-minute rule shielding health care workers who withhold from patients any treatment they consider morally objectionable. [...]
The rule protects refusals even if they endanger the patient. It does not require refusers to give notice of a pending refusal. They're not even required to make sure "non-refusing" staff is ready to cover for them during a crucial treatment or procedure. [...]
Should federal law protect the person who delayed a critical treatment or prevented it altogether, even if your loved one suffered or died as a result?
We value our freedoms, especially religious freedom. But every freedom stops at the place where it would injure others. This so called "conscience" rule neither recognizes nor respects that boundary between religious freedom and harm to others.
Let's repeal the HHS "conscience" refusal rule in its entirety. The Bush administration should not be allowed to thwart good medical care for the sake of religious zealotry.