Good Missouri Bill to Protect Medical Conscience

Wesley J. Smith

We live in an age in which the purposes of medicine have been stretched to include facilitating lifestyle choices (“consumerist”) and killing born or nascent human beings (abortion, assisted suicide/euthanasia/embryonic stem cell research).

As a consequence of the sometimes radical redefinition of health care, medical professionals with Hippocratic or pro-life values find themselves in a terrible conundrum; violate their consciences or get out of medicine. Comes now Missouri House Bill 1430 that seeks to erase that hard choice.

In doing so, as I have written,1 it is crucial not to allow a doctor to refuse to provide necessary (wanted) treatment to maintain life—in other words, not empower Futile Care Theory.2 The bill succeeds in that by restricting application to specific procedures. From the bill:3

(5) “Specified medical procedures or research”, abortion, abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, sterilization which is not medically necessary, assisted reproduction, human cloning, human embryonic stem-cell research, human somatic cell nuclear transfer, fetal tissue research, and nontherapeutic fetal experimentation.

Good. And the bill liberates dissenting professionals from forced complicity via required referral—as is required regarding abortion in Victoria, Australia:

(4) “Participate in specified medical procedures or research”, to provide, perform, assist in or refer for specified medical procedures or research.

The bill prevents a dissenting professional from suffering sanction for exercising conscience rights:

191.1153. 1. A medical professional has the right not to participate, and no medical professional shall be required to participate in specified medical procedures or research that violate his or her conscience.

2. No medical professional shall be civilly, criminally, or administratively liable for declining to participate in specified medical procedures or research that violate his or her conscience.

3. It shall be unlawful for any person, medical professional, health care institution, the state of Missouri, political subdivision, public or private institution, public official, or any board which certifies competency in medical specialties to discriminate against any medical professional based on his or her declining to participate in specified medical procedures or research that violate his or her conscience.

Ditto health care facilities. Thus, as an example, a Catholic hospital could not be required to perform elective abortion.

In our devolving medical milieu (as I see it) there must remain a protected place for medical professionals who want to practice their art consistent with the values of the Hippocratic Oath.

I urge the Missouri Legislature to pass HB 1430. I also hope this legislation will serve as a model for legislators in other states to act vigorously to protect doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals in their locales.

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[At the time of this publication, Missouri HB 1430 had not yet been voted on. Status of the bill may be seen at the Missouri House web site. This article was originally published January 30, 2014 by National Review Online and is here reprinted by permission of author. Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. He also consults for the Patients Rights Council and the Center for Bioethics and Culture.]