Friday, March 5, 2010

Mugged by medicine?

Idahoans who think their lives are their own may soon be gravely mistaken because the Legislature is poised to legalize medical muggings.

The muggings would occur when people least expect them: at the drug store, at a counselor's office or in a nursing home. Or, the muggings could be so silent people may not know they were mugged until it is too late.

Medical muggings would be allowed under an expansively written Freedom of Conscience bill that would allow licensed health care professionals, aka the muggers, to impose their private beliefs on other individuals, aka the muggees.

S1353, a tiny two-page bill, would give medical muggers the ability to blast a bunker-buster-size hole in the health care Idahoans receive. It's been approved by the Senate and is now in the House, which approved a similar bill last year.

While the bill's sponsors claim it is not intended to restrict or deny health care options to patients, that is exactly what it would do, especially in small towns.

The bill states, "No health care professional or employer of the health care professional shall be civilly, criminally or administratively liable for the health care professional declining to provide health care services that violate his or her conscience, except for life-threatening situations ... .

The bill defines such a service as "an abortion, dispensation of an abortifacient drug, human embryonic stem cell research, treatment regimens utilizing human embryonic stem cells, human embryo cloning or end of life treatment and care."

Doctors are already protected from being forced to perform procedures like abortions. The bill would protect anyone with a license or certification to deliver health care, including nurses, pharmacists and counselors. For example, pharmacists could refuse to dispense legally available medications, including some contraceptives, if their "conscience" dictates.

Opponents say correctly that victims of incest or rape could be denied counseling—a silent mugging—or emergency contraception drugs at a critical time.

What "end of life" treatments someone might find objectionable aren't outlined anywhere in the bill, but it's a good bet they could include pain medications, or denial of hydration or food as specified by individuals in living wills.

Idaho's cowardly and misguided legislators would let "health care professionals" mug defenseless patients and rob them of their freedom of choice.

That's indefensible.

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