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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

Right to health

The medical field has its fair share of moral debates. Stem cell research, living wills and sex education have been debated at length many times over the past decade. Yet these all have taken the sidelines as the current debate of the month is none of the above. The topic on everyone’s tongues now is about a little-publicized rule known as the “conscience clause.”
The conscience clause allows workers in health care settings, anybody from janitors to doctors, to refuse to provide services, information or advice on ambiguous religious or moral grounds. The services that can be denied to a patient on moral grounds include contraceptives, blood transfusions, vaccine counseling and many more. Even the morning-after pill can be denied to rape victims under the clause.
The rule was amended to a previous conscience clause law created after Roe v. Wade. The law allows doctors at any institution that receives federal money to refuse to provide abortions.
This amended law is one of many pieces of midnight legislation passed by former President George W. Bush before leaving office. First proposed August, it took effect Jan. 20, President Obama’s first day in office.
A simple glance at the timing of this clause reveals its true intent: to serve as a political torpedo dropped in the water, aimed at a new administration. If it was an issue the Bush Administration really cared about, they would have had it enacted before the first day of Obama’s tenure as president. Now, two months into his administration, Obama is facing the problem of what to do with this political missile.
When I go to a doctor, I want them to be honest about my options – all of my options. The patient should be the one making the moral decisions about treatment, not the doctor. Once you open the door to doctors making medical decisions based on their own morals, without any concern of the needs of the patient, you enter a scary place. Could a racist doctor refuse treatment of minorities based on his feelings of moral superiority of his own race? What about a doctor who refuses to arrange a vital blood transfusion because the patient and the donor are of different religion or race? This kind of treatment is possible with this law, and it’s abhorrent.
Defenders of the law are citizens from constituencies of Christians and Christian doctors. Even now, right wing elements are rallying support among Christian groups to prevent Obama from forcing Christian doctors to violate their own moral convictions. Now, this analogy might be unfair, but it seems to me that one of the major qualms of Christians is doctors being forced to violate the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not murder,” by providing contraceptive services which can extinguish the potential life of a child.
The irony is, I don’t see any Christian groups standing up for soldiers forced to violate the Sixth Commandment by killing on the battlefield. Soldiers aren’t drafted anymore, they are volunteers, and so are doctors. If you voluntarily sign up for a job, you had best be ready to perform all of the demands of that job, whether they suit your personal moral code or not. If your religion tells you not to murder, you shouldn’t be a soldier, just like you shouldn’t be a doctor who might be asked to provide contraceptive services or family planning advice.
Ultimately, this is about priorities. What’s more important – the doctor or the patient? If you think the patient should be at the mercy of the doctor, then you should support this amendment. If you think the patient should be the person who makes the decision whenever a course of medical action might bump into an area of moral contention, then this law must be opposed. Patients have a right to choose for themselves the best medical treatment available and the doctor should have to provide it.
When President Obama considers this midnight ruling, I hope he finds value in the rights of the patient to choose their own treatment, and thus decides to remove the amended clause from legislation.

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