In January the HHS announced a notice of a proposed rule designed to “ensure compliance” with federal conscience protections poised to greatly expand the ability of health-care professionals to claim religious or moral exemptions from providing care and services. This post is written by Edith Brous, Esq. PC, nurse attorney in response to this announcement. This was originally posted in her Newsletter and reposted here with her permission.
The nursing population reflects the diversity of opinion reflected in its larger culture. Some of us are religious; some are atheist. Some of us are politically conservative; some are liberal. Some of us are heterosexual; some are members of sexual minorities. Our individual views differ on many topics, but we should have one shared non-negotiable moral value that supersedes all others. We do what is in the patient’s best interest. Period.
Pending legislation to allow one’s religious views to supersede that professional responsibility threatens to undermine our profession. We consistently poll as the most trusted profession specifically because we do put our personal views on hold to take care of patients. Military nurses have cared for enemy soldiers. Black nurses have cared for Klansmen. Psychiatric and corrections nurses have cared for dangerous, violent people who have committed heinous crimes. Jewish nurses have taken care of Nazis. These patients have engaged in activities that outrage our sense of morality; that violate our religious principles; that personally revolt us. But we take care of them anyway. Because we are nurses.
Some nurses will see such legislation as authorization to discriminate – as a license to deny care to patients with whom they disagree. That will be a sad day for us. Believe what you want about abortion, sterilization, euthanasia, sexual minorities or anything else. Believe what you want personally. But do not let those personal views compromise your professional ethics. Understand the personal and public health implications for those who would be harmed by such laws.
If you feel so strongly about your political or religious views that you cannot take care of some patients, get out of nursing. Run for office. Lobby and campaign for your views. Try to convince others to share your beliefs. But don’t put those views above the well-being of sick and injured people. That is a betrayal of your responsibility as a member of my profession and you embarrass me. Disagree with me if you like. Try to argue your point without name-calling or abuse and insults. We can have spirted, animated debates, but let’s not get sucked into the vitriol and animus that has characterized so much disagreement in our politics. We are nurses; we can do this. We have debated many topics in which we have had fierce disagreement. We can disagree without being disagreeable.
I love nursing and have great respect and affection for other nurses. I want to know that when I or anyone I love is vulnerable, a professional nurse will put everything else aside to provide care. We can argue about almost everything. But we should all agree that patients always come first.
This post was written by Edie Brous, Esq., P.C. Nurse Attorney