Friday, December 19, 2008

Conscience of a Conservative

In merely the latest outgoing outrage wreaked by the trasher-in-chief, George makes yet another move toward theocracy. In doing so, he -- and those into whose recti he's inserted his head (most especially his own) -- has once again revealed the hypocrisy that is the religious right.

"The Right of Conscience Rule," is what it's called. If your feelings are hurt, it says, or if you see something that offends your religious beliefs, you don't have to participate. Boo fricking hoo.

Evidently it takes 127 pages to codify such a thing, and I'm damned (no doubt!) if I'm gonna plow through the whole tract. Clearly it's an anti-abortion effort; but it evidently extends to providing birth control, or information, or, I'd assume, anything that might relate to premarital sex, gay relationships. With no obvious endpoint. In short, pretty much anything. Janitors? Sweep the floor of a classroom in which evolution is taught?? As if!!!!

Here's the hypocrisy (well, including, but not limited to...): when a soldier refused to go to Iraq because he believed the war was illegal, the right wing bloviators all but exploded on air. Exophthalmos. Aneurysms aplenty. "HE SIGNED UP FOR IT!!!," they ejaculated. "HE VOLUNTEERED!!! YOU GONNA BE A SOLDIER, YOU TAKE IT LIKE A MAN!!," they certaintated, from their non-volunteering, sand-free studios.

I respect religious beliefs. (Well, actually, there are many I don't respect at all: those that require a person to reject the most real of reality; and those that lead people to harm others. Which, sadly, are pretty inclusive categories. But I digress...) More accurately, I respect the right of people to have those beliefs, and, insofar as they don't harm the rest of us, to follow them as they choose. If eating meat offends me, I'd not work in a butcher shop. If I believed pigs aren't kosher, I wouldn't buy a ham sandwich.* If I were a pacifist, I'd avoid signing up for the military (although I could see doing so with a guarantee of not having to kill someone; maybe, say, in the medical corps.)

So, fine: don't wanna hand out BCPs? Don't be a pharmacist. Don't wanna clean up after abortions? Work in a bank, ferchrissakes! Because, where does it end? Does an evangelical firefighter not rescue a gay couple from a burning building? May a Christian cop refuse to protect them? Teachers opt out of teaching science? See, it's like I've been saying: to the extent that religion slops over into public life as policy, it's a pernicious influence that threatens to tear us down. When the line between personal belief -- which, by definition, is the cleaving to the unknowable and the unprovable and which, therefore, ought to be kept within one's breast -- and public policy is crossed, we are at risk of ceasing to function.

Conscience is one thing. (Notice the word at its heart: science.) I'd argue that we indeed have one, based on the evolution of the need for cooperation and community as elements of protection and procreation. I know right from wrong, and I didn't have to study the Bible to figure it out. This bill isn't about conscience. It's about religion, which is entirely different, and, in this instance, destructive. The thing is, even as it becomes more obvious, it becomes more prevalent. Christian cries of persecution to the contrary, they're taking over everything and everywhere, breaking us apart.

It must be nice to believe in the Rapture. They're gonna need it.

*Reminds me of one of my grandpa's (Jewish, need I say?) favorite stories: Jewish guy is traveling across the country from New York, stops in a cafe in Texas, sits at the counter. Cowboy type next to him says, "Howdy, stranger, where ya from?" "New York," says the traveler, a little nervous. "Well, hell, then, let me buy you a beer," handing him a bottle. "I'm sorry," says the Jewish guy, "I don't drink." "Well, okay. How 'bout having half of my ham sandwich?" "I don't eat ham," replies the poor soul. Now the Texan is getting annoyed. "Listen, stranger. Around here we don't turn down hospitality. Drink the goddam beer." "I'm really sorry, sir, but I can't." At which point the Texan pulls his gun and says, "Take the beer, you sonofabitch, and drink!" Hands shaking, the poor guy takes the beer and has a sip. "Well, then," he says, trembling. "As long as you have the gun on me, how about passing the ham sandwich?"



Anonymous said...

Sid, do you ever laugh at anything??? Admit it, that A-rab hurling his Wingtips was FUNNY, even if it was my Commander in Chief. Can't wait to see you blow a Gasket next Christmas when BHO lights the first White House Kwanza Tree..

Sid Schwab said...

Hell yes I laugh at stuff, Frankie. You, for example. And the shoes, for sure.

Anonymous said...

Sid, Once again you show that tolerance only means agreeing with you. There's no service you wouldn't provide because of the morality involved? Would you perform male circumcision on infants at the request of the parents? Then how about female circumcision? Would you administer an anti-psychotic to a condemned prisoner so that he could be found competent enough for execution? Start the IV for an execution?

I know many Christian physicians and they all went into medicine to heal, not to be part of the death industry. You simply show yourself to be an approving member of the anti-morality party when you advocate forcing doctors to act against their consciences--for whatever reason they believe.

Sid Schwab said...

I expected comments like that, and you don't disappoint. Where in the post did I mention forcing doctors to act against their conscience?

Anonymous said...

When you lamented the new rules that allow them to follow their consciences. Do you follow your conscience? If so, you should be tolerant of their decision. If not, you don't have one.

Sid Schwab said...

It's hard to have a discussion when one side presents nothing but non sequitur. Ain't worth it, neither.

Anonymous said...

You're just avoiding the question, Sid, kind of like you always do.

Here it is: should doctors do as they're told, or as requested by patients, or should they follow their own moral compass? I gave you some scenarios--how would you react to those requests?

Sid Schwab said...

Okay, now that wasn't so hard, was it? Addressing the issue with a minimum of snark and insult. A logical response that follows from the original post. Nicely done. If you'd started like that, I might have actually answered.

I have performed circumcisions. I'd not perform female circumcision. Difference: one is legal, the other is not. Anti psychotic in the situation you describe? I don't know of that circumstance. Had he been sentenced to execution he'd already have been found competent. Start an IV? No. Because, as I implied in the post, I'd not put myself in a position to have to do so. I'd not take the job in the first place.

And I've refused to do things patients asked because I judged them to be the wrong solution for a given situation, medically speaking. Not my morals vs theirs: my best MEDICAL judgment. It's what I get paid for.

Anonymous said...

Wow--real answers. Thanks.

Here the drug thing:

1.4.1 Involuntary Administration of Anti-Psychotic Drugs

In Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210 (1990), the Supreme Court held that treating a mentally ill prisoner with anti-psychotic drugs against his or her will does not violate substantive due process if the prisoner is dangerous to himself or herself or others and the treatment is in the prisoner’s medical interest. In Perry v. Louisiana, 498 U.S. 38 (1990), the Court examined the constitutionality of the involuntary administration of such drugs to treat death row prisoners to competency. Instead of answering the question, however, the Supreme Court remanded the case for reconsideration in light of Harper.

Anonymous said...

"I'd not put myself in a position to have to do so."

So, if you were a young doc not wanting to be a part of the death industry, you might have taken a job at a Catholic hospital. Now, with the impending FOCA coming, you see that you may not have the "choice" yourself.

Would you: Quit? Refuse? What?

For many, this is not a hypothetical question. Docs will be under the gun to perform "services" against their consciences. Thank you, George Bush, for trying to get them a little breathing room!

Sid Schwab said...

Now, with the impending FOCA coming, you see that you may not have the "choice" yourself.

Huh? Backwards do you have it.

GDad said...


Please address the situation where I went in for a physical to determine whether I was physically fit to act as a foster or adoptive parent, and the doctor refused to sign the form, because he believed that LGBT people should not be allowed to foster or adopt children. Note that this examination was to RENEW my certification, not to get a new one.

The doctor's examination revealed no life threatening conditions. His response was based entirely on his religious beliefs. Was it his place to decide whether or not I could have children, when the certifying authority had already made that decision?

Anonymous said...

While FOCA touts "choice", it will eliminate the choices of doctors and others in treating within their consciences.

Anonymous said...


"Was it his place to decide whether or not I could have children"?

Of course not, and I'm sorry that happened to you in that way. But whose place is it to tell the doctor what he can and can't do?

I have a small business in media, a little sign out front and take all comers. I've turned down the opportunity several times to work with Planned Parenthood and with Playboy. Should I be compelled to work with them or can I say no because of my own conscience. I think I was on shaky legal ground, to tell the truth. But I wasn't going to do it.

How about the wedding photog who said no thank you to shooting a gay wedding? Should she be compelled to do it? She was sued and lost because of it. Was that right?

If you have a small biz and I walk in with my giant Yes on Prop 8 t-shirt, can you just explain that we probably won't get along? That you're sure I can find somebody else to work with where we won't be grating on each other? Doesn't that make sense?

You weren't there for emergency care--you had a simple transaction. I assume the doc didn't charge you, and I'm sure you found someone happy to work with you.

GDad said...

Anon, let's deal with my particular question, then we can generalize a rule.

Should that doctor have been able to refuse to sign the form because of his beliefs especially since he still took my money?

sowhatandwhocares said...

Is there an "h" shortage? (Exophthalmos - I love that word - I think the ophthalmologists must have stock in that letter, since they throw it in all over the place.

Anon: The Orwellian named "freedom of choice act" goes against the medical and nursing profession's codes of ethics and also violates nursing and medical regulations as promulgated by the state boards of nursing and medicine.

Patients' rights are much more in jeopardy with this rule in place than before. When nurses and physicians have moral concerns about any aspect of patient care, they are expected to make that concern known to employers and/or patients prior to the situation occurring.

For example, a registered nurse who cares for hospice patients has a professional obligation to be cognizant of all pertinent end of life standards of nursing care and practice regulations and professional ethics around that care. If s/he feels that s/he cannot provide the care which is required and requested by patients with legitimate end-of-life care and treatment needs, such as parenteral morphine administration in doses which to effectively manage pain (the reason for the prescription) may also depress the respiratory drive to the extent that death occurs sooner than if the medication had not been given, then the nurse should not practice in that area, or in a rare and unforseen exceptional situation should make appropriate treatment and care options available in a timely and accessible manner. To do anything less or otherwise is to neglect or abandon the patient.

Perhaps it is helpful to think of this as professionals practicing in clinical specialties. Nurses and physicians choose to practice in areas with specific patient problems and treatment options for those problems. They cannot choose which portions and types of options to offer to patients when medically indicated. They can, however, elect to refer patients to providers who do perform the care options they don't in their domain, as long as the referral is timely and does not affect patient care and outcome.

The "freedom of choice act" allows providers to walk away from that obligation - and that's what is so odious about it.

A nurse or physician,(or an Army chaplain, for that matter) should provide care free of religious dogma, free of personal bias, free of prejudice (pre judgment)and full of compassion, genuine concern and advocacy so that the patient is armed with the information and support needed to make health choices which are in the patient's best interest and which lead to return to or maintenance of health.

There are bound to be sticky wickets and ethical questions in just about every care setting and in every patient clinical specialty. Most patient care institutions have ethics committees, and these can be very helpful is examining complex issues with no clear "right" answers.

What is not tolerable, however, is for a pharmacist to deny a patient's prescription on personal religious grounds. The statute and ethics call for it to be filled except where medically contraindicated. Period. Patients suffer real harm because of this, and it is not right - legally or morally, no matter what Mike Leavitt and his "weaponized Department of Health and Human Services" (I read that inthe latest edition of the Carnival of Elitest Bastards, and I think it's apt.) issues in (not on, Dr. Schwab)his last bender

Sid Schwab said...

Clearly and well-argued. And I corrected my little hlapse.

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