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Protection of Conscience Project

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Service, not Servitude
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New Hampshire

House Bill 670 (2015)

Health Care Freedom of Conscience Act

Check on the status of this bill at the New Hampshire General Court

AN ACT relative to the rights of conscience for medical professionals.

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

1 Statement of Intent; Findings.
I. The general court of the State of New Hampshire finds that:

(a) It is the public policy of New Hampshire to respect and protect the fundamental right of conscience of all individuals who provide health care services.

(b) Without comprehensive protection, health care rights of conscience may be violated in various ways, such as harassment, demotion, salary reduction, transfer, termination, loss of staffing privileges, denial of aid or benefits, and refusal to license or refusal to certify.

II. Based on the findings in paragraph I, it is the purpose of this act to:

(a) Protect as a basic civil right the right of all health care providers, institutions, and payers to decline to counsel, advise, provide, perform, assist, or participate in providing or performing health care services that violate their consciences. Such health care services may include, but are not limited to, abortion, artificial birth control, artificial insemination, assisted reproduction, human embryonic stem-cell research, fetal experimentation, human cloning, and sterilization.

(b) Prohibit all forms of discrimination, disqualification, coercion, disability, or liability upon such health care providers, institutions, and payers that decline to perform or provide any health care service that violates their consciences.

2 New Chapter; Health Care Freedom of Conscience Act. Amend RSA by inserting after chapter 126-Y the following new chapter:
CHAPTER 126-Z
HEALTH CARE FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE ACT

126-Z:1 Title. This chapter shall be known and cited as the “Health Care Freedom of Conscience Act.”

126-Z:2 Definitions.

In this chapter:

I. “Conscience” means the religious, moral, or ethical principles held by a health care provider, a health care institution, or a health care payer. For purposes of this chapter, a health care institution or health care payer’s conscience shall be determined by reference to its existing or proposed religious, moral, or ethical guidelines; mission statement; constitution; bylaws; articles of incorporation; regulations; or other relevant documents.

II. “Employer” means any individual or entity that pays for or provides health benefits or health insurance coverage as a benefit to its employees, whether through a third-party, a health maintenance organization, a program of self-insurance, or some other means.

III. “Health care institution” means any public or private organization, corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, association, agency, network, joint venture, or other entity that is involved in providing health care services, including but not limited to: hospitals, clinics, medical centers, ambulatory surgical centers, private physician’s offices, pharmacies, nursing homes, university medical schools, nursing schools, medical training facilities, or other institutions or locations wherein health care services are provided to any person.

IV. “Health care payer” means any entity or employer that contracts for, pays for, or arranges for the payment of, in whole or in part, any health care service or product, including, but not limited to: health maintenance organizations, health plans, insurance companies, or management services organizations.

V. “Health care provider” means any individual who may be asked to participate in any way in a health care service, including, but not limited to, the following: a physician; physician’s assistant; nurse; nurses’ aide; medical assistant; hospital employee; clinic employee; nursing home employee; pharmacist; pharmacy employee; researcher; medical or nursing school faculty, student, or employee; counselor; social worker; or any professional, paraprofessional, or any other person who furnishes or assists in the furnishing of health care services.

VI. “Health care service” means any phase of patient medical care, treatment, or procedure, including, but not limited to, the following: patient referral; counseling; therapy; testing; diagnosis, or prognosis; research; instruction; prescribing, dispensing or administering any device, drug, or medication; surgery; or any other care or treatment rendered by health care providers or health care institutions.

VII. “Participate” in a health care service means to counsel, advise, provide, perform, assist in, refer for, admit for purposes of providing, or participate in providing any health care service or any form of such service.

VIII. “Pay” or “payment” means pay, contract for, or otherwise arrange for the payment of, in whole or in part.

126-Z:3 Freedom of Conscience of Health Care Providers.

I. A health care institution has the right not to participate, and no health care institution shall be required to participate, in a health care service that violates its conscience.

II. No health care provider shall be civilly, criminally, or administratively liable for declining to participate in a health care service that violates his or her conscience.

III. It shall be unlawful for any person, health care provider, health care institution, public or private institution, public official, or any board which certifies competency in medical specialties to discriminate against any health care provider in any manner based on his or her declining to participate in a health care service that violates his or her conscience. For purposes of this chapter, discrimination includes, but is not limited to, the following: termination; transfer; refusal of staff privileges; refusal of board certification; adverse administrative action; demotion; loss of career specialty; reassignment to a different shift; reduction of wages or benefits; refusal to award any grant, contract, or other program; refusal to provide residency training opportunities; or any other penalty or disciplinary retaliatory action.

126-Z:4 Freedom of Conscience of Health Care Institutions.

I. A health care institution has the right not to participate, and no health care institution shall be required to participate, in a health care service that violates its conscience.

II. A health care institution that declines to provide or participate in a health care service that violates its conscience shall not be civilly, criminally, or administratively liable if the institution provides a consent form to be signed by a patient before admission to the institution stating that it reserves the right to decline to provide or participate in health care services that violate its conscience.

III. It shall be unlawful for any person, public or private institution, or public official to discriminate against any health care institution or any person, association, corporation, or other entity attempting to establish a new health care institution or operating an existing health care institution, in any manner, including but not limited to the following: any denial, deprivation or disqualification with respect to licensure; any aid assistance, benefit, or privilege, including staff privileges; or any authorization, including authorization to create, expand, improve, acquire, or affiliate or merge with any health care institution because such health care institution or person, association, or corporation planning, proposing, or operating a health care institution declines to participate in a health care service which violates the health care institution’s conscience.

IV. It shall be unlawful for any public official, agency, institution, or entity to deny any form of aid, assistance, grants, or benefits or in any other manner to coerce, disqualify, or discriminate against any person, association, corporation, or other entity attempting to establish a new health care institution or operating an existing health care institution because the existing or proposed health care institution declines to participate in a health care service which violates the health care institution’s conscience.

126-Z:5 Freedom of Conscience of Health Care Payers.

I. A health care payer has the right to decline to pay, and no health care payer shall be required to pay for or arrange for the payment of any health care service or product that violates its conscience.

II. No health care payer and no person, association, corporation, or other entity that owns, operates, supervises, or manages a health care payer shall be civilly or criminally liable by reason of the health care payer’s declining to pay for or arrange for the payment of any health care service that violates its conscience.

III. It shall be unlawful for any person, public or private institution, or public official to discriminate against any health care payer or any person, association, corporation, or other entity attempting to establish a new health care payer or operating an existing health care payer, in any manner, including but not limited to the following: any denial, deprivation, or disqualification with respect to licensure, aid, assistance, benefit, privilege, or authorization including but not limited to any authorization to create, expand, improve, acquire, or affiliate or merge with any health care payer, because a health care payer or a person, association, corporation, or other entity planning, proposing, or operating a health care payer declines to pay for or arrange for the payment of any health care service that violates its conscience.

IV. It shall be unlawful for any public official, agency, institution, or entity to deny any form of aid, assistance, grants, or benefits or in any other manner to coerce, disqualify, or discriminate against any health care payer or any person, association, corporation, or other entity attempting to establish a new health care payer or operating an existing health care payer because the existing or proposed health care payer declines to pay for or arrange for the payment of any health care service that violates its conscience.

126-Z:6 Civil Remedies.

I. A civil action for damages or injunctive relief, or both, may be brought for the violation of any provision of this chapter. It shall not be a defense to any claim arising out of the violation of this chapter that such violation was necessary to prevent additional burden or expense on any other health care provider, health care institution, individual, or patient.

II. Any individual, association, corporation, entity, or health care institution injured by any public or private individual, association, agency, entity, or corporation by reason of any conduct prohibited by this chapter may commence a civil action. Upon finding a violation of this chapter, the aggrieved party shall be entitled to recover threefold the actual damages, including pain and suffering, sustained by such individual, association, corporation, entity, or health care institution, the costs of the action, and reasonable attorney’s fees; but in no case shall recovery be less than $5,000 for each violation in addition to costs of the action and reasonable attorney’s fees. These damage remedies shall be cumulative, and not exclusive of other remedies afforded under any other state or federal law.

III. The court in such civil action may award injunctive relief, including, but not limited to, ordering reinstatement of a health care provider to his or her prior job position.

126-Z:7 Severability. If any provision of this chapter or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the invalidity does not affect other provisions or applications of the chapter which can be given effect without the invalid provisions or applications, and to this end the provisions of this chapter are severable.

3 Effective Date.

This act shall take effect January 1, 2016.

 

 

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