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Health Care Workers' Rights
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Several states are considering new laws to protect health workers who do not want to provide care that conflicts with their personal beliefs. This new aspect of social engineering by conservatives reflects the increasing tension between asserting individual religious values and defending patients' rights.

Both sides have ethical concerns to be addressed. Doctors, nurses, anesthetists, pharmacists may find they have to act in violation of their personal beliefs when confronted by Do Not Resuscitate orders, by requests for artificial insemination, by concern that vaccinations may require use of fetal tissue cultures. Their jobs should not put their immortal souls in peril of eternal damnation.

We now have the full measure of the political power of religious conservatives and a whole range of patient services could be in danger.

The other side of the ethical coin is the individual's right to decide how her body is treated in illness; is maintained in health; and ultimately experiences death. What right does anyone have to withhold pain medication or smallpox vaccine from a competent adult?

Perhaps the ultimate outcome will be that medical professionals will not be required to prescribe and treat in contravention of their beliefs, but will be required to post those beliefs publicly so that patients know what their health care providers will and will not do. These beliefs cannot be allowed to be exercised in secret when they affect the well-being and health of another person.

And patients may have to shop around for the prescriptions and health care they need from so-called mainstream providers, just as they now need to do for midwives, chiropractors, acupucturists and whole body health practitioners.

Your thoughts on the subject?

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