Dire diagnosis for religious liberty in healthcare

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, the 12th of November, 2019. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. Next up, protecting the conscience rights of people who work in healthcare.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration issued a rule widely praised by Christian healthcare workers. The rule expanded protections for those with religious or moral objections to certain medical procedures. It was set to take effect on November 22nd.

REICHARD: But last week, a federal judge blocked the rule. He said the U.S. Health and Human Services Department overstepped its authority in expanding conscience protections. The judge also said the rule could be costly, burdensome and damaging to emergency care.

Joining us now to talk about it is Dr. Mike Chupp. He’s the new CEO of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations.

Good morning!

MIKE CHUPP, GUEST: Good morning, thanks for having me. 

REICHARD: Thanks for coming on. Well, in last week’s ruling, the judge disputed the government’s claims about an increase in complaints from healthcare workers being forced to violate their consciences. In fact, he called that “flatly untrue.” What are you hearing from CMDA members? Has there been an increase?

CHUPP: Well, we actually happened to conduct a poll this summer. It was the second one we’ve done in 10 years. Mary and we got results back from 1700 of our members. We were joined by the Catholic medical association as well as nurses, Christian fellowship, and Christian pharmacy fellowship. 1700 responses. Three out of four respondents said that there’s no question that discrimination and incidences of conscience discrimination have increased since our poll 10 years ago and one in four say that they themselves had been discriminated against because of a moral or religious belief. I think that 91 percent said that if there’s not some sort of protective conscience regulation in place said they would rather leave medicine, uh, than to be forced to perform some procedures or treatments that are against their deeply held beliefs.

REICHARD: You know, it’s hard to imagine healthcare providers in this country, in the United States being forced to do something they disagree with. But that’s not uncommon in other countries, as I understand it.

CHUPP: Well, certainly all we have to do is look to our neighbors to the North in Canada to see what’s transpired. Mary, in the last five years to know the sorts of threats that are out there. We’re not talking about, uh, a far off and distant place, but we’ve been working together with the CMDS of Canada and they’re, they desperately would not like to see the same things happen to us that have happened to them there.

REICHARD: I’m wondering how does your organization, CMDA, talk to medical students about these issues? Is this something they’re thinking about and grappling with? Do you see it changing the way some view their potential careers, or even affecting the specialties they pick?

CHUPP: Well I, I wish I could say that they are very in tune with this. We, there are some very bright exceptions among our trainees, our students and residents. In fact, this summer at the annual meeting of the American Medical Association, we had some students very motivated to speak out against physician assisted suicide. And the group that showed up for that actually made a big difference and surprised us and I, maybe the AMA as well that they turned the tide against the AMA going neutral against physician assisted suicide. And the delegation, the house of delegates decided to stick with the traditional long-held stance that it was not appropriate. It was not Hippocratic to switch to a neutral position regarding physician assisted suicide. So I believe there are some young healthcare professionals. We’re very proud of them. But I would say for the most part they’ve got their heads down just like I did when I was a medical student. Uh, in a resident, very busy. And the idea of fitting in public policy and the, your future of conscience rights isn’t exactly in the forefront of their thinking.

REICHARD: Dr. Chupp, is there any good news out of this discouraging court decision?

CHUPP: Well, the ruling is disappointing last week in New York, but I think the encouraging thing is that there are 25 conscience protection laws and statutes in place and they remain the law of the land. Praise God. They’re protecting healthcare professionals today. The 2011 conscience regulations that were put into place, we feel are inadequate, but they do provide an open door and invite for the Office of Civil Rights to take complaints about discrimination. And the current director, Roger Severino is dedicated to enforcing the law. So we want to encourage Christians in healthcare out there of faith and maybe of all faiths, uh, are able to turn in complaints that they’ve been discriminated against. And our disappointment mainly, Mary,  is that there is not teeth to this regulation. And that’s what this new regulation would have brought to us as Christians in healthcare, discouragement to those who employ Christians, uh, to avoid discrimination because of the cost that it would be, especially those who receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.

REICHARD: Dr. Mike Chupp heads the Christian Medical and Dental Associations. Thanks so much for joining us today.

CHUPP: It’s been my pleasure. Thank you.

(Photo/Creative Commons)

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