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IN THEORY:Conflicts of conscience in health care

July 29, 2006

All around the nation, there have been reported instances of health workers refusing to provide services and products to patients because providers feel the patients' care needs violate their beliefs.

In Chicago, an ambulance driver reportedly refused to transport a patient for an abortion. In Texas, a pharmacist reportedly refused a morning-after pill to a rape victim.

The clashes have led to lawsuits and political conflicts over religious freedom and patients' rights.

At federal and state levels, lawmakers are reportedly considering laws requiring workers to provide the care or to protect them from punishment if they don't.

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Where do you stand? Should workers have the right to refuse such care if their conscience says so? Or, should they be compelled to provide care regardless?

If I go into a Kosher deli and order a ham sandwich, should I feel offended to find out it's not on the menu? Why have so many Americans come to the place where we feel we should have whatever we want, when we want it and how we want it? Why should someone be forced (by law) to violate their moral and religious values?

I may not agree with someone else's religious belief or philosophy of life, but I feel compelled to respect them. Part of the grandeur of creation is the diversity of the human family that is richly identified by traditions, cultural practices, and yes, even of religious faiths.

America offers us with many choices. If I feel a particular health care provider is detrimental to my own need, in most cases I have other options.

When individuals are opposed to war they are afforded the right as conscientious objectors to not participate in wartime activity. When an individual or organization is opposed to certain medical procedures on moral grounds, they have a right to object and to be consistent with their spiritual belief system.

THE REV. PAUL J. HRUBY

Pastor

Incarnation Catholic Church

We live in a democratic society that is regulated by laws established by our elected officials. A free society is the greatest possible blessing to religion, since it allows everyone to worship as they see fit. Therefore, protecting this system is of paramount importance for those who cherish the positive values of religion.

I feel that health workers must follow the law diligently even if their personal beliefs conflict with that legislation. If an individual feels that a certain law is unjust, our legal system allows them to challenge it ? but in a civilized manner and in a court of justice.

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