I see a very interesting debate shaping up out in the blogosphere.
President Obama is considering reversing certain provisions of what are known as the Conscience Clause, enacted by President Bush near the end of his term. I remember when Number 43 put this on the books, and I also remember feeling a distinct sense of unease when I read about him doing this. It’s funny, but I have that same distinct sense of unease when I think about Number 44 making changes to this provision. And I have a pretty good idea why, but I’ll get to that later.
There are two posts that I read today about this topic, each from a different blog, both of which have given me pause to think. Each with a different point of view. The first post, from Kim at Emergiblog, is a very well-written, compelling post where the main question she asks is this: while one of the main things she does is to advocate for her patients, who is to advocate for her rights, as a health care provider? The second, from Duncan Cross, a self-admitted heavy (but apparently well-informed) user of the system, makes a rather interesting point that, “The problem with the “Conscience Clause” is that it legitimates the weasels, making them indistinguishable from the many responsible medical professionals who are in fact willing to do the job they get paid to do” (From the post).
If you read both posts, even though it is unsaid, the unmentioned problem that they both refer to is abortion. Specifically, it’s whether or not someone who has a moral imperative to not be involved with abortions be allowed to exercise that imperative. As I see it, this could be taken a step further: why not apply this imperative to other issues? Physicians who participate in the execution of prisoners, for example, or providing prescriptions for medical-grade marijuana even though it is still an illegal substance are a couple of issues that come to mind. And there are numerous others, I’m sure, but I won’t list them here.
This is a difficult argument because, at least in my mind, they both are at least partially right. And partially wrong.
Most everyone I know who is a health care provider of some sort has a conscience. To not have one brings into question our ability to interact with our patients and, ultimately, do our jobs. And Kim, in her words, very eloquently states her position. She feels that her rights will be usurped if Obama reverses the provisions she refers to. Duncan, on the other hand, is basically saying that she, as a health care provider, has to put the patient’s welfare ahead of her own and, for all practical purposes, put her own beliefs aside for the benefit of the patient regardless.
I am not passing any judgment on either of them. Rather, I applaud both of them for having the courage to write about what they believe, regardless of my own position on this subject. I am merely interpreting what I read and stating what I see.
That said, however, I do have an opinion about the Conscience Clause itself. I believe it should never have been passed in the first place, and I will tell you why. First, if a health care provider has an issue with any services that a patient requests, the right for that provider to choose – and the freedom that goes with it - should in no way be regulated by government. Whether or not a health care provider is pro-life or pro-choice, the individual in question should have the unregulated right to make decisions related to that. Having the Clause in place can cause – and has caused – problems for both patients and providers, and making modifications to them will muddy the waters even further.
It boils down to too much Government involvement on the private affairs of the People. And the bottom line is that a person’s conscience cannot – and should not - be regulated.
Read the posts. Form your own opinion. This is mine.
I wonder if my view on this makes me a partial closet Libertarian?