Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Should Healthcare Workers Control Access to Treatment

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about proposed regulation to protect healthcare workers who oppose abortion, Rules Let Health Workers Deny Abortions.

How much protection do healthcare workers really need from women seeking medical treatment? The proposed new rules could potential cut off federal funding to states that force healthcare workers to perform, assist in, or refer patients to abortion services. It seems reasonable to expect that individuals who oppose abortion for moral or religious reasons should not be forced to perform them or even in assist in performing them. However, in my opinion, doctors and nurses should not be involved in denying medical care to a patient by refusing to refer them elsewhere. If they aren't willing to perform a procedure for personal reasons, then they should be willing to refer the patient to a different clinic or healthcare provider who will.

Opponents to the new regulation worry that the ambiguous wording would also enable healthcare providers to deny patient access to the morning-after pill and even some forms of birth control. Although supporters claim that the regulation does not affect the rights of patients to obtain any legal medical procedure, it's hard to deny that these changes would make it much more difficult for some patients to actually get the needed or desired medical treatment. Under the new rules, a woman presenting to the emergency room after being raped might not even be told about the availability of the morning-after pill, depending on the moral or religious beliefs of the healthcare providers treating her or the institution itself (such as Catholic hospitals). Isn't this tantamount to denying the patient access to appropriate and legal medical care?

1 comment:

Andie said...

In my view, it is absolutely tantamount to denying people medical care.

This is especially troublesome for those women who live in more rural communities, where they may have to drive 50 miles to reach the only clinic in their state. If they are denied care there, the consequences could be dire. (botched back-alley abortions or unwanted children, take your pick)