Hospitals’ Case for Conscience Protection

October 8, 2021

In an article published this week in the National Catholic Register, Jordan Buzza, director of CMF CURO for Christ Medicus Foundation, considers whether “medical professionals should be required to perform procedures that they disagree with ethically, morally or due to religious reasons.” 

Buzza explains how doctors and other medical professionals need conscience protections to follow the basic principles of the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm” and to prioritize the good of their patients. And the federal government’s growing role in health care presents serious challenges in this regard. Federal regulations requiring medical professionals and hospitals to provide certain procedures that may “violate their moral obligation to do no harm, as they understand it,” require scrutiny in their own right, but they should also be paired with robust conscience protections. 

According to Buzza, Catholic and other faith-based hospitals and professionals are increasingly facing an “unwinnable dilemma”:

…Either cease receiving government funds to avoid legal conditions that require them to betray their faith, thereby imperiling their capacity to serve those in need, or face legal repercussions for remaining faithful to their religious mission, which could drive them out of existence.

Buzza goes on to provide examples of litigation to which religious hospitals and medical professionals are especially vulnerable as they navigate the escalating tension between adherence to their religious mission and moral convictions, on the one hand, and maintaining their eligibility for generally available public funding. He writes: 

There is growing disagreement regarding what types of procedures qualify as health care. Catholics, for example, do not believe that abortion, contraception or euthanasia are health care, but others do… Two lawsuits in Maryland and California exemplify this point, as both involve Catholic hospitals being sued for refusing to remove healthy uteri from individuals experiencing gender dysphoria.

He concludes: 

The irrational push to enact policies that would destroy Catholic and other faith-based health care will harm millions of patients by greatly limiting their ability to receive care. State and national health-care policies should firmly respect and promote the conscience rights of doctors, nurses, other medical professionals and health-care institutions, not only to protect the professionals themselves, but also the public they serve.

Read the full article: Hospitals’ Case for Conscience Protection. 

More RFI Commentary on Medical Conscience Rights: