Sunday, September 21, 2008

The HHS And You!

I don't like writing about things I don't know an awful lot about. It makes me nervous, and it also makes it harder for me to build up the type of righteous and argumentative authority I generally like to have if someone disagrees with me on the subject at hand. Without that, I may have to *gasp* admit that I'm either wrong, or that I don't know what I'm talking about. Both of those scenarios would be unnecessary blows to my (large amount of) self-esteem, and so I generally stick to topics I know a fair deal about - or can at least bluff about knowing a fair deal about.

That isn't a position I'm writing from right now, but I'm discussing this particular issue because I think it is important. Hillary Clinton (Senator from New York) and Cecile Richards (president of Planned Parenthood) joined forces to write an editorial in the New York Times about a new proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services that would "require that any health care entity that receives federal financing - whether it's a physician in private practice, a hospital or a state government - certify in writing that none of its employees are required to assist in any way with medical services they find objectionable".

On the surface, this seems like a fairly benign rule. But as Senator Clinton and Ms. Richards expanded upon the ramifications about the rule, it became more and more apparent that we as Americans should speak out against it. The rule would allow physicians to deny patients contraception; it could be used to deny women patients information about their options or even denied care - and denied a referral to a doctor who wouldn't find the medical services asked for objectionable. Since the rule is also nebulous and unspecific about what, indeed, the employees could deny upon deciding the request was in some way objectionable, Clinton and Richards ask:
Could physicians object to helping patients whose sexual orientation they find objectionable? Could a receptionist refuse to book an appointment for an H.I.V. test? What about an emergency room doctor who wishes to deny emergency contraception to a rape victim? Or a pharmacist who prefers to not refill a birth control prescription?
These questions resonate with me, and I would hope they resonate with many others. Yes, those who give medical care should have some protections in place; but those protections should not infringe upon patients' rights. Patient rights only begin where those who have been entrusted with giving them sound medical advice's rights end. And for my own sake, I want a doctor who is compelled - not just by morality, but by the law itself - to give me all of the information, or direct me to someone who will. Because of that, I went to the ACLU's page about the matter and filled out the required fields to send a letter to the HHS. And why I'm going to be calling 1-877-696-6775 on Monday to personally voice my displeasure with this measure. And I hope others will too. We have until September 25. Sorry for the short notice. I'm a bit of a procrastinator...

For more information, I'd suggest reading this blog post, this handy-dandy explainer by the ACLU, and/or the actual draft regulations, linked at the bottom of the handy-dandy explainer.


John said...

Since I also like to write about what I know, and since I know about comics, here's a nightmare scenario that could be permitted if this rule goes into effect:

Stephanie Brown (A.K.A. Robin, the Girl Wonder) was tortured, sexually assaulted and critically wounded by Black Mask, one of Batman's lesser-known villains. Barely able to escape and limp to safety, Stephanie sought medical assistance from Dr. Leslie Tompkins, Batman's outside physician and medical advisor. Leslie refused to treat Stephanie's injuries (thus ensuring her death) because she did not believe that saving her was the right thing to do. Instead, Leslie thought that her death would serve as a warning and deterrent to other young women who might be considering a life of crime-fighting. (It failed in this respect. The only teenaged female potential superhero who learned of this tragedy had only a moment's hesitation before deciding to continue down her chosen path.)
As far-fetched as it may be, something like this could conceivably happen.

John said...

NOTE: After pressure from concerned readers and the members of Project: Girl Wonder, A recent retcon by DC Comics editorial has shown this all to be an elaborate ploy to fool Batman. The revised version is that Leslie did treat Stephanie, faked her death so well that BATMAN didn't notice, and embarked on a journey to Africa with Stephanie in order to provide much-needed medical aid to desperate African villages.

petpluto said...

I have to say, John, that is an apt example, if an incredibly frightening one!