Leavitt’s LoopholeAugust 23, 2008 — Deacon Duncan
One of the problems with trying to mingle church and state is that religion often depends on emphasizing belief over real-world consistency, and that can lead to policies that not only fail to address real-world issues effectively, but ultimately conflict with religion itself. For example, the Bush-appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services wants to make it a law that medical professionals cannot be compelled to provide services that they find morally objectionable.
I have on two previous occasions written in my blog about the principle of health care provider conscience. Federal law is explicit and unwavering in protecting federally funded medical practitioners from being coerced into providing treatments they find morally objectionable…Today, HHS will file a rule in the Federal Register aimed at increasing compliance with existing federal laws protecting provider conscience. The proposed rule clarifies that non-discrimination rules apply to institutional health care providers as well as to individual employees working for recipients of certain funds from HHS. It requires recipients of certain HHS funds to certify their compliance with laws protecting provider conscience rights. The HHS Office for Civil Rights is designated as the entity to receive complaints of discrimination addressed by the statute or the proposed regulation.
Now, this sounds good to the Religious Right. All the code words are there: this is supposed to be a law designed to allow doctors to deny medical care to women seeking abortions, to gays and lesbians, and to whoever else might be contrary to conservative Christian approval. The problem is, this proposal opens the door to all kinds of abuses that might not be what the Christian supremacists want.
For example, a doctor could decide that diseases are caused by sin and demons, and could legally deny people legitimate medical care in favor of more “spiritual” alternatives like prayer and confession. Or a doctor could uphold an extreme quality-of-life ethic by denying life support to a critically-ill patient. Leavitt’s Loophole could, in fact, open the legal doors for a particularly nasty form of passive euthanasia, by protecting the doctor’s “right” to let a patient die of starvation, dehydration, and oxygen deprivation, with or without the patient’s consent, if in the physician’s personal opinion it would be immoral to allow the patient to continue a pain-filled and hopeless existence.
Leavitt’s Loophole would conclusively settle the Terry Schiavo case, not just for patients as bad off as Terry, but for those who are a lot better off than she was. Passive euthanasia could be effectively legalized, by removing the penalties for doctors denying care, in all 50 states, without a referendum. And the Religious Right is solidly (and blindly) supportive of Leavitt’s Loophole anyway.
Reality-based policies are your best insurance for making sure the laws you pass really serve your best interests. Faith-based government is just a wish and a sigh, and an eventual, inevitable, “oops.”