HHS preventive services mandate update

The Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, Georgia and the Catholic Diocese of Savannah have been granted a permanent injunction barring the federal government from enforcing the HHS birth control mandate against them. [Catholic Culture]  In Oklahoma, 200 Catholic employers filed a suit against the federal government seeking the same kind of protection.  The Catholic Benefits Association wants to offer health insurance that does not include coverage for contraceptives. [Associated Press]  On 25 March, the United States Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, two cases challenging the HHS mandate. [The Foundry]

Canadian assisted suicide/euthanasia bill lacks protection of conscience provision

Member of Parliament Steven Fletcher has introduced Bill C581 in the Canadian House of Commons, a private member’s bill to legalize physician assisted suicide and euthanasia.  He has also introduced Bill C582 to establish a Canadian Commission on Physician Assisted Death, a body that would “produce public information on physician-assisted death and to support law and policy reform with respect to physician-assisted death.”  Bill C581 does not include a protection of conscience clause for physicians or health care workers who refuse to participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide for reasons of conscience.  Due to Canadian rules of parliamentary procedure and unwillingness of the governing party to revisit the issues, it is highly unlikely that the bills will come to a vote.

Genetic screening to improve intelligence

Writing in The Conversation, ethicist Julian Savulescu discusses recently published findings that indicate that children with two copies of a common gene (Thr92Ala) and low thyroid hormone levels apparently increase the likelihood of low IQ by a factor of four.  Since the “risk of low intelligence” depends upon both the genetic configuration and hormonal level, he suggests that such children could be treated with supplemental thyroid hormones “to enhance their intelligence.”

The “low intelligence” to which he refers is the 4 % of the U.K. population estimated to have an IQ of between 70 and 85.

“If we could enhance their intelligence, say with thyroid hormone supplementation,” he writes, “we should.”

Savulescu’s focus on intelligence in this case should not become a distraction.  Supplementing hormones seems to present no special ethical problems, since the goal in that case would not be eugenic perfectionism or enhancement, but therapeutic correction of a deficiency.  However, Savulescu goes beyond this to propose that IVF embryos be screened, and that embryos found to have two copies of the Thr92Ala gene not be selected for implantation.  What is unstated is that the ‘defective’ embryos should be killed.  This would be an ethical/moral problem for anyone who holds that deliberately killing human embryos is wrong.

 

Project article on Quebec euthanasia bill published in Turkish law journal

Comparative Current Criminal Law Series, 14: Medicine/Health LawThe three part series Redefining the practice of medicine: Winks and nods and euthanasia in Quebec (Bill 52: An Act respecting end-of-life care) has been translated into Turkish and published in volume 14 of the Comparative Current Criminal Law Series by Özyeğin University in Istanbul.

Midwife ordered to pay $17,000 after opposing abortions at her hospital

LifeNews

Natalia Dueholm

How much does the truth cost?  For a Polish midwife, it could cost up to 50,000 złotych (approximately $17,000).

The management of a private Polish hospital has threatened legal action against Agata Rejman, a midwife, after she discussed abortions performed at the Specialist Hospital Pro-Familia (right) in Rzeszów.

Rejman’s legal troubles began after a January 2014 press conference organized by Senator Kazimierz Jaworski.  During the conference, Rejman described her anguish after having to participate in abortions at the hospital.
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Virginia enacts protection of conscience provision for genetic counsellors

 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]

Therapeutic homicide in a neonatal unit?

The Mary Dilemma: Case Study on Moral Distress

Sean Murphy

The Canadian Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Journal published  an article in late 2013 about the moral distress suffered by a Catholic nurse who witnessed the death of a newborn infant. The baby was allegedly starved to death in a neonatal intensive care unit at a Toronto hospital between 27 October and 22 November, presumably in 2012 or earlier. . .The Journal article does not disclose the names of the hospital or the people involved “for reasons of confidentiality”. . . While the Journal article raises very interesting questions from the perspective of freedom of conscience and religion for health care workers, it is prudent to withhold further comment on the allegations until it is clear what action, if any, will be undertaken by state authorities in the Province of Ontario.
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The Mary dilemma – A case study on moral distress

Newborn infant starved to death in Toronto hospital

One of the nurses who was caring for her today looked at me with tears in her eyes and said “this is not right – if they took  her home and didn’t feed her they would be charged – why is it okay for us to do this?”

Fr. Michael Della Penna, ofm*  and Francisca Burg-Feret*

This paper begins with a case study describing the perspective of a Catholic nurse who experienced moral distress while observing the tragic death of a newborn infant named Baby Mary. The purpose of this paper is to raise awareness and educate readers about the concept of  moral distress and promote a greater understanding of the lived experience of Catholic health care providers who undergo this trauma. It also provides an analysis and some recommendations for practice that can help health care professionals make good ethical choices in difficult situations based on their faith.
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Entrenching a ‘duty to do wrong’ in medicine

Canadian government funds project to suppress freedom of conscience and religion

 Sean Murphy*

A 25 year old woman who went to an Ottawa walk-in clinic for a birth control prescription was told that the physician offered only Natural Family Planning and did not prescribe or refer for contraceptives or related services. She was given a letter explaining that his practice reflected his “medical judgment” and “professional ethical concerns and religious values.” She obtained her prescription at another clinic about two minutes away and posted the physician’s letter on Facebook. The resulting crusade against the physician and two like-minded colleagues spilled into mainstream media and earned a blog posting by Professor Carolyn McLeod on Impact Ethics.

Professor McLeod objects to the physicians’ practice for three reasons. First: it implies – falsely, in her view – that there are medical reasons to prefer natural family planning to manufactured contraceptives. Second, she claims that refusing to refer for contraceptives and abortions violates a purported “right” of access to legal services. Third, she insists that the physician should have met the patient to explain himself, and then helped her to obtain contraception elsewhere by referral. Along the way, she criticizes Dr. Jeff Blackmer of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) for failing to denounce the idea that valid medical judgement could provide reasons to refuse to prescribe contraceptives. . .
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Abortion campaigners assault on conscience in Italy based on ideology, not facts

 “When the ideological fury collides with reality, sometimes the impact is very violent.”

LifeSite News

Hilary White

ROME, March 13, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The pro-life movement in Italy has come out swinging against an order by the Council of Europe to abolish the country’s legal protection for conscientious objectors against abortion. Gianfranco Amato, the head of the campaign group Giuristi per la Vita (Jurists for Life), said at a press conference yesterday that the clause in the abortion law 194, “remains the only form of defence against an unjust law.”

Amato said, “Freedom of thought, conscience and religion is one of the foundations of a democratic society.”

The committee’s decision came in response to a complaint, launched in November 2012 by International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPFEN) and an Italian labour union, claiming that Italian doctors were “abusing” the conscience protection clause in Law 194. IPPF made the complaint when the government announced in its annual statistics that between 70 and 90 percent of gynecologists in the country refuse to participate in abortion.

Some in the secular media are defending the decision of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Social Rights to uphold a complaint against the law, saying that it has created a “totalitarianism” of pro-life doctors who commit “psychological violence” against women who want abortions. The criticism comes as Italian media are publicizing the case of a woman who is claiming that two years ago she miscarried in a hospital bathroom after doctors refused to do an abortion. Valentina Pertini has launched a court case to review the law this week, aiming to add political pressure immediately following the Council of Europe committee’s non-binding decision.[Full Text]