Update on American HHS birth control mandate controversy

On 14 December, Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza, filed a lawsuit against the HHS regulation [Associated Press].  Five days later, a federal appeals court reinstated lawsuits filed by Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey that had been dismissed by a lower court.  The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals also ordered the Obama administration to report every sixty days on its progress in redrafting the regulation to accommodate employers with religious objections to providing insurance for birth control.[Life News]  News of the Wheaton and Belmont decisions came too late for inclusion in a column in the  New England Journal of Medicine, which outlined the litigation and the issues.The federal Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court ruling that Hobby Lobby must comply with the mandate because it does not impose a “substantial burden” on the exercise of freedom of religion by the company’s owner. [The Hill]  In contrast, O’Brien Industrial Holdings of Missouri was granted an injunction by an appeals court that prohibits the federal government from enforcing the regulation.  The decision overturns a lower court ruling [The Foundry, 3 December].  A similar injunction was granted to the Griesedieck family‘s American Pulverizer Company in Minnesota [National Review] Commenting that there is no “trust us changes are coming” clause in the U.S. Constitution, a federal judge in New York upheld the right of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York to proceed with its lawsuit against the mandate. [Becket Fund, 6 December]    Meanwhile, the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious order that provides nursing care to the elderly poor in 30 American cities, is considering the possiblity of leaving the United States if the current regulation stands. [LifeSite News]

Irish Archbishops challenged on claims of conscience about abortion

Archbishops are absolutely wrong about conscience

The Irish Times
27 December, 2012

Desmond M. Clarke

OPINION: Catholic bishops who attribute an absolute value to conscience are trying to force others to accept their position on abortion.

The Catholic archbishops of Armagh, Dublin, Cashel and Emly, and Tuam released a public statement on December 18th that included this general principle: “No one has the right to force or coerce someone to act against their conscience. Respect for this right is the very foundation of a free, civilised and democratic society.”

I do not think they believe that. Nor do I.

Conscience could mean many things but it is usually understood as referring to the judgment of an individual about significant moral and religious matters. Unfortunately it is possible for someone to decide in “their conscience” that politically-motivated murder is acceptable in some circumstances, and the archbishops presumably do not mean the conscience of a murderer obliges a democratic state not to interfere in their behaviour, no matter how well-intentioned it may be. . . [Read on]

“Normalisation of cruelty” and the ‘ethics of the profession’

A court in the United Kingdom has awareded £410,000 ($663,000) in damages to 38 plaintiff families for an extraordinary cataloque of neglect, abandonment and abuse at the National Health Service’s Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, England.  The incidents occurred between 2002 and 2009.  Britain’s Health Secretary said that the case illustrates “the normailisation of cruelty.”  One elderly patient was left unwashed for 11 weeks and another was starved to death. [RTE Question More; The Telegraph]

Court rules against Costa Rican ban on in vitro fertilization

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ruled that the Costa Rican law prohibiting in vitro fertilization violates the American Convention on Human Rights(Murillo  et al. v. Costa Rica.  The Costa Rican law is intended to protect human life, including embryonic ife, from the moment of conception, which is guaranteed by the Convention.  A preliminary commentary by Piero A. Tozzi, J.D. indicates that the court “elevated  secondary rights – such as the right to privacy, a right to personal
autonomy, and a right to sexual and reproductive health – above the right to
life.”

Proposed changes to Belgian euthanasia law may affect freedom of conscience

The Belgian Socialist party has submitted proposals to amend the country’s euthanasia law to permit euthanasia of children and persons suffering from dementia. According to news reports, children would have to be suffering from an incurable illness to qualify.[Daily Mail]  The text of the proposed legislation does not yet appear to be available.

However, two bills submitted by Marleen Temmerman to the Belgian Senate in May, 2012 made the same kind of proposals.  Draft law No. 4-431/1 makes euthanasia available to children who are able to “discern” that they want it if they otherwise meet the legal criteria for euthanasia of adults.  Alternatively, their parents can make the request.

Draft Law No. 4-676/1 makes euthanasia available to patients with dementia.  This bill also appears to impose a requirement on conscientious objectors to refer patients to physicians willing to kill them by modifying the existing protection of conscience provision in the Belgian euthanasia law.  The existing law requires an objecting physician to transfer a patient’s medical file to another physician if requested to do so by the patient or surrogate decision maker.  The onus remains on the patient or surrogate diecision maker to find a willing physician.  Draft Law. No. 4-676/1 would add the following provision to the law:

Si aucun médecin n’a été désigné par le patient ou par sa personne de confiance,  le médecin qui refuse d’accéder à une demande d’euthanasie communiquera le  dossier médical à un autre médecin en vue d’assurer la continuité des soins.

If  no physician has been designated by the patient or by his  surrogate decision maker, the physician who refuses to comply  with a request for euthanasia must tranfer medical records to another  physician to ensure continuity of care.(Machine assisted translation)

On the face of it, this does not appear to add anything new.  However, the commentary on the section provided by Temmerman indicates that what she has in mind is the addition of a requirement that an objecting physician find a colleague willing to kill the patient:

La loi sur l’euthanasie n’offre pas de solution pour le cas où le  médecin traitant refuse d’accéder à la demande d’euthanasie, où le  patient n’est plus en mesure de désigner un autre médecin et où il  n’a pas désigné de personne de confiance. Le patient a pourtant  droit à l’exécution de sa déclaration anticipée et à la continuité  des soins. C’est pourquoi le médecin qui refuse d’accéder à la  demande d’euthanasie doit transmettre lui-même le dossier médical à  un médecin qui soit disposé à appliquer la volonté exprimée par le  patient.

The law on euthanasia does not offer a solution for the case in which the doctor refuses to grant the  request for euthanasia, where the patient is no longer  able to appoint another doctor and did not appoint a surrogate decision maker. The patient nevertheless entitled to enforce his advance directive and ensure continuity of care. This is why the doctor who refuses to comply with the request for euthanasia must transfer the medical file to a  medical doctor who is willing to implement the wishes of the  patient. (Machine assisted translation)

In July of this year, the Belgian Federal Commission for the Monitoring and Assessment of Euthansia recommended that medical students should be taught how to kill patients properly, and that continuing medical education should include such instruction:

La commission rappelle qu’elle estime que le curriculum des études  médicales devrait comporter une formation préparant les futurs médecins à affronter les problèmes que pose la gestion de la fin de vie, y compris la pratique des soins palliatifs et la mise en oeuvre correcte d’une euthanasie. De même, les divers cycles d’enseignement  postuniversitaire et les activités de recyclage devraient être encouragés à inclure une telle form. 

The Committee recalls that it considers that the curriculum of  medical education should  include training  preparing future physicians to deal with the problems  posed by the management of the end of life, including the practice of palliative care and the proper implementation of ‘euthanasia. Similarly, the various cycles of postgraduate education and recycling activities should be encouraged to include such training. (Machine assisted translation)

The Commission did not appear to recognize that some medical students might have conscientious objections to a requirement that they be required to kill a patient as a condition of graduation.  On the other hand that Commission may have intended only that medical students be provided with information about how to kill patients properly, without a requirement that they actually demonstrate their competence.

They Said “No”

What happened when 12 nurse refused to help their hospital perform elective abortions

New Jesey, USA
Sept-December, 2011

Alliance Defending Freedom

Nurses in a big city hospital never know what a day’s shift will bring – straightforward cases or medical miracles, major crises or minor first aid. Whatever her station, whatever the duty of the moment, a nurse tries to ready herself for anything. But some things, you just can’t see coming.

It was Beryl Otieno Ngoje’s turn to work the desk in the Same Day Surgery Unit at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), in Newark. She was busy with the usual administrative duties – filing charts, handing out forms to the patients, answering visitors’ questions – when another nurse hurried up beside her. . . [Read on]

Irish archbishops appeal to freedom of conscience in abortion politics

The Irish parliament will begin hearings in January on legalization of abortion, and the Irish government promises to have a bill before the Dáil Éireann by Easter.  The new law will permit abortion in order to save the life of a mother, including those who threaten to commit suicide if they are denied the procedure [Global News].  In response to the announcement, and reports that Prime Minister Enda Kenny might force objecting members of his party to vote for the bill, Ireland’s four Catholic archbishops have protested the proposed changes, and insisted that the government must respect lawmakers’ freedom of conscience.

. . .on a decision of such fundamental moral importance every public representative is entitled to complete respect for the freedom of conscience. No one has the right to force or coerce someone to act against their conscience. Respect for this right is the very foundation of a free, civilised and democratic society. [Zenit]

Ireland announces abortion law reforms, leaving no one satisfied

18 December, 2012

By Jason Walsh, Correspondent

The new legislation is meant to clarify Ireland’s stance on abortion when the mother’s health is at risk, but antiabortion groups say it goes too far, and abortion-rights groups not far enough.

Ireland took a step today toward loosening its strict antiabortion regime, as the government announced legislation to legalize abortion in limited circumstances. But a battle lies ahead, as both abortion-rights and antiabortion groups appear dissatisfied with the government’s new prescription. . . [Christian Science Monitor]