This Medical Conscience Rule for health workers recently approved by the Bush administration has me worried.
Under the rule, which takes effect in January, anyone from the neurosurgeon to the pharmacy cashier can choose to not participate in the medical care of any individual because of a religious or moral objection.
Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt describes this rule as protecting the right of medical providers to care for their patients in accord with their conscience. That's the conscience of the health care provider, of course.
The Family Research Council, doubtless dancing in the street shouting yippee and slurping champagne, calls this ruling a gift to pro-lifers because health care providers now have a right to make professional judgments based on moral convictions. So much, apparently, for the Hippocratic Oath.
Abortion is the obvious moral issue here. According to this ruling, a pharmacist can refuse to fill a prescription for post abortion antibiotics if the reason for the antibiotics is known and the pharmacist objects to abortion.
I'm always willing to take things to the most far fetched scenario. So, what if someone suffering from AIDS seeks emergency room treatment for say, a broken leg. That treatment, despite EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act) federal legislation can be denied if a nurse or doctor feels that people suffering from AIDS are sinners.
And what about people openly gay or lesbian? If the dentist feels homosexuality is wrong, screw the cavities.
Let's take this even further. Anyone believe that mental illness is a direct result of masturbation and that masturbation is a sin? How about body piercings? Those among us still bogged down in Leviticus might refuse medical treatment to anyone wearing an ear ring. Forget all of the other places we pierce.
You see where I'm going with this.
I know a thing or two about barn doors. They are rarely open just wide enough to accommodate field mice. Once opened a little bit, it doesn't take long for every horse on the ranch to gallop with wild abandon through the hills. If enough barn doors open, what we wind up with is a stampede.
Let's hope human nature has a door stop.