On 19 April, 2018, the legislature of the State of Victoria, Australia, passed the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017, which will come into force in June, 2019. It is currently the most restrictive euthanasia/assisted suicide (EAS) legislation in the world, running to 130 pages. In brief, the law authorizes physician assisted suicide for terminally ill adults, but permits euthanasia by physicians only when patients are physically unable to self-administer a lethal drug. In both cases a permit must be obtained in advance.
Assisted suicide will become legal in Hawaii on 1 January, 2019, as a result of the passage of the Our Care, Our Choice Act. Introduced in the state House of Representatives only in January, it passed both the House and Senate and was approved by Governor David Ige on 5 April. Beginning next year, physicians will be able to write prescriptions for lethal medications for Hawaiian residents who are capable of informed consent, who are at least 18 years old, and who have been diagnosed with a terminal, incurable disease expected to result in death within six months.1
And beginning next year, Hawaiian physicians who refuse to facilitate assisted suicide by referring patients to a willing colleague may face discipline — including expulsion from the medical profession — or other legal liabilities. Hawaii could become one of only two jurisdictions in the world where willingness to refer patients for suicide is a condition for practising medicine.2 . . . [Full text]
Catholic News Agency
Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 26, 2018 / 06:14 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Mexican Senate has approved a measure protecting the conscientious objections of medical personnel who hold moral or ethical objections to certain treatments.
The decree, approved March 22, states that “professionals, technicians, aides, social service providers that are part of the National Healthcare System shall be able to invoke the right of conscientious objection and excuse themselves from participating and/or cooperating in all those programs, activities, practices, treatments, methods or research that contravenes their freedom of conscience based on their values or ethical principles.” . . . [Full text]
Mexico has added a provision to its General Law on Health recognizing freedom of conscience of all physicians and nurses in relation to all services, except in emergencies and life-threatening situations. In doing so, those responsible took note of existing provisions in The Bioethics Code for Health Personnel and The Code of Conduct for Health Personnel. The latter includes a particularly striking passage:
32. It should be emphasized that doctors are professionals of science and conscience, and cannot be reduced to mere instruments of the patient’s will, since, like the patient, they are free and responsible persons with a unique collection of values that regulate their lives.
There is no requirement for referral, which many objecting health care workers would find unacceptable because of concern that referral would make them complicit in what they believe to be wrongful conduct. The new provision is specific to freedom of conscience and does not address issues of access and availability of non-objecting personnel, which will presumably be managed administrative measures or other legal means.
Hannah C. Smith
Last Friday, the Trump administration revised rules implementing the Affordable Care Act in a way that expands protections for religious and moral objectors to the contraception mandate — achieving the common-sense balance that religious organizations have sought for the past six years. These revisions allow religious nonprofits — like the Little Sisters of the Poor — to avoid millions of dollars in fines because their employee health insurance plans exclude coverage for contraception, a practice contrary to Catholic doctrine on respecting human life.
Judging by some media hyperbole, however, you would think that the federal government had just abolished the ACA’s birth control mandate altogether. Headlines that claim the federal government’s move “reverses” or “scraps” or “ends” the mandate are all wrong.. . .The vast majority of women in America will continue to receive free birth control, and religious objectors will not be forced into providing services that violate their conscience. . . [Full text]
Not so long ago, President Trump’s new guidelines for the Department of Health and Human Services for protecting freedom of religious faith would have been superfluous and unnecessary. A casual observer might have read them in puzzlement, as if the government had reaffirmed its opposition to robbery or murder.
But all that was before the Obama administration sought to bring those of religious faith to heel, ordering employers to pay for contraception devices and abortion-inducing drugs, even if it violated the conscience of employers. Under pressure, the Obama administration grudgingly exempted churches from its mandate, but employers affiliated with religious groups still were required to pay through third-party administrators.
The new guidelines, drawn up by the U.S. Justice Department, change that. The order does not prohibit employers paying such benefits, and many employers will continue to do so. Nor will anyone be deprived by the government of their condoms, diaphragms and other birth-control devices. But “going forward,” as the cliche goes, an employer will not be required by the U.S. Government to violate his conscience for the convenience of those hostile to religious faith. . .[Full text]
A new abortion law has been enacted in Bolivia as part of the revision of the country’s Penal Code. Section 153 of the Penal Code now permits abortion of any girl under the age of 20 for any reason and at any point in gestation, when pregnancy results from rape, incest or involuntary artificial reproduction. Abortion is also allowed at any point in gestation in the case of present or future risk to the life or “overall health” of a woman, and (when pregnancy is under 8 weeks gestation) the woman is a student or has the care of a disabled relative.
The protection of conscience provision prohibits “the national health system” from asserting conscientious objection and insists that conscientious objection is limited to individual medical personnel “directly involved in the accomplishment” of the procedure, and must be stated in advance. “The national health system” is not defined in the law. It would appear from this that private or denominational health facilities (if they exist) cannot establish policies prohibiting abortion.
The fact that abortion is permitted as an exception to a general prohibition should mean that medical personnel or institutions of the opinion that a women does not qualify for an abortion under one of the legal criterion (such as risk to “overall health”) cannot be compelled to participate. This would not constitute conscientious objection and could not be stated in advance.
New law aims to ensure doctors and nurses aren’t fired for their beliefs if assisted suicide is ever legalized in the state.
National Catholic Register
PHOENIX — Health care providers and institutions opposed to assisted suicide gained more legal protections under a new Arizona law that aims to help ensure doctors and nurses aren’t fired for their beliefs if the practice is ever legalized.
Senate Bill 1439 was “an important rights-of-conscience bill,” according to the bishops of the Arizona Catholic Conference.
“S.B. 1439 will help protect health care providers not wanting to participate in services causing the death of their patients,” the state’s four bishops said March 24, adding they were grateful that it has become law. . . [Full text]
Governor’s attempt to force referral overridden by Senate
A bill concerning the regulation of genetic counselling in Virginia has been enacted with the original protection of conscience provision intact. Identical versions of the bill had been passed unanimously by the Virginia House and Senate, but Governor Terry McAuliffe, apparently in response to lobbying from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood, attempted to insert a mandatory referral provision into the bill. This was rejected by the Senate. The law now requires an objecting counsellor to offer “to direct the patient to the online directory of licensed genetic counselors maintained by the Board.” [Family Foundation]
The Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill 2013 passed the Tasmanian Legislative Council 9-5 on 21 November [ The Examiner] and received Royal Assent today. Abortions after 16 weeks will require the approval of two physicians. The new Act includes a protection of conscience provision that exempts those who object to the procedure from participating in it, except when necessary to save the life of a woman or prevent serious physical injury. There is no requirement for referral, but an objecting physician must provide a woman “seeking a termination or advice regarding the full range of pregnancy options” a “list of prescribed health services” from which she may seek advice. Since, subject to the content of the list, this does not seem to be the equivalent of referral for abortion, the requirement may not be problematic for those concerned about indirect moral complicity.
What is not clear is whether or not the Act actually prohibits an objecting physician from providing information or advice about pregnancy options beyond the “prescribed” list. Section 7(4) states that an objecting physician may continue to “provide treatment, advice or counselling, in respect of matters other than a termination or advice regarding the full range of pregnancy options” (emphasis added) which could be taken to imply that an objecting physician is not permitted to offer a woman anything other than the prescribed list.