HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Update on Refusals to Treat

The National Law Journal has an interesting article discussing recent state legislative proposals that are aimed at protecting doctors and other health professionals who refuse to provide certain medical services or drugs based on their moral or religious beliefs.   These laws, commonly  known as "refusal" or "conscience" clauses, have engendered controversy in the medical and legal community.  The National Law Journal reports,

Last year, 14 states introduced 37 bills that would allow pharmacists and other health care providers not only to opt out of abortion services, but to refuse to fill prescriptions for any drugs on the basis of personal or moral convictions.

In addition, nine states introduced broader bills that would permit the refusal of any medical procedure or drug for any reason.  . . . .

Meanwhile, many attorneys fear the government is on a slippery slope to allowing refusal for virtually any medical procedure, limiting access to practices and technology such as in-vitro fertilization, stem cell research and end-of-life practices.

The breadth of some of the proposed and newly enacted legislation has some concerned that doctors and other health professionals will fail not only to provide a service but any information about that service.  In addition, the article notes that hospitals have concerns because doctor's orders may no longer be followed if an individual disagrees with them on moral grounds.  [bm]

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