Tungtide

Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Clauses

Posted by tungtide on September 24, 2008, 10:18 am

One of the many issues that I follow and rant about (in my head, if nowhere else) involves “conscience clauses” for medical professionals. These are legal loopholes that allow the religiously minded to deny treatment to patients on “ethical” grounds. I put the word ethical in quotations because I see nothing ethical about denying treatment to a patient.

Conscience clauses in the news are often associated with pharmacists and their right to deny birth control to patients that have the medication prescribed by a doctor. This release by Health and Human Services seeks to define (and potentially expand) the legislation surrounding conscience clauses.

“This proposed regulation is about the legal right of a health care professional to practice according to their conscience,” HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. “Doctors and other health care providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience. Freedom of expression and action should not be surrendered upon the issuance of a health care degree.”

I couldn’t disagree more. Based on how I’m reading this release, a doctor can claim religious or conscience-related disagreement with ANY procedure, patient, or disease. If a doctor believes that HIV is a malady designed to exterminate gays from the planet this legislation would make that a legitimate belief and allow the doctor to deny treatment to the patient. Freedom of expression and action should not be surrendered, but the obligation of a health care provider is to provide health care.

While it would strengthen provider conscience rights, the proposed regulation would in no way restrict health care providers from performing any legal service or procedure. If a procedure is legal, a patient will still have the ability to access that service from a medical professional or institution that does not assert a conflict of conscience.

That’s nice, but it fails to address a significant problem or two: First, there may not be a qualified professional or institution that is easily reachable aside from the location involved. That location may also choose to deny treatment and further distress the patient. Second, there is no clause listed that directs the medical professional or institution to recommend an alternate location. The doctor may simply deny treatment, avoid even telling patients of available options, or refuse to provide information about a treatment center that would perform the procedure.

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Simplicity

Posted by tungtide on August 18, 2008, 11:21 pm

Rarely have I seen such a clear and well-worded response to those who claim atheists function solely to attack god. BGH of The Information Paradox says it best.

I cannot rail against that which I disbelieve. I can only rail against the actions of those who use their belief as motivation to infringe on my rights.

Still, despite the irrationality (and my poor transition), more than 50% of adults in a recent survey said that they believe god could miraculously save a terminal patient when all medical information claimed the opposite. I understand the desire to see a loved one recover, the belief that they will somehow get better. I even understand that doctors and nurses need to be patient and understanding with the variety of beliefs in this country. I wonder, though, what the cost might be. A brain-dead patient in a hospital consumes resources (food, IV, equipment, staff time, etc.) that could easily be redirected to help another (as much as I hate to say it this way) more viable patient. On top of that, a prolonged hospital stay does nothing but rack up bills that are either covered by the family or by the insurance. The family can easily be bankrupted by the excessive costs, while the insurance companies will pass the costs along to the living.

Finally, the California Supreme Court ruled that doctors cannot refuse to treat gay and lesbian individuals based on religious objections. The case involved fertility doctors that began treating a lesbian woman but refused to perform the actual artificial insemination. The lawyer for the clinic had this to say:

“The Supreme Court’s desire to promote the homosexual lifestyle at the risk of infringing upon the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion is what the public needs to learn about,” said Tyler, who leads the nonprofit Advocates for Faith and Freedom in Murrieta, Calif.

My initial concerns about the ruling were cleared up after reading the statement. No one would be batting an eyelash if the doctors refused to treat a hispanic patient because of her race, or a Jewish patient because of her religion. Freedom of religion allows you to believe what you would like, but not to use that as a justification to treat other people differently. The doctors in this case are offering a service. They must either offer the service to all individuals or none. It is unethical to charge different rates for different groups, and it is just as unethical to refuse to treat a group.

The closest parallel that I could think of is the ongoing kerfuffle about pharmacists and birth control. Pharmacists who believe birth control is tantamount to abortion will refuse to fill prescriptions for the pill. The result is a prescription held hostage by religious belief. Certain loopholes in the law (as far as I remember it) allow the pharmacist to transfer the prescription to another pharmacist or pharmacy that will fill the order. In some cases the pharmacists were refusing to transfer the order and holding it in limbo. While I’m unsure about the legality, I would think that a pharmacy that opposed birth control would simply not carry it, and would not accept the prescriptions in the first place. This would simplify the process and allow all parties to get what they needed. Then again, in some rural areas there is only one pharmacy (others may be 50-100 miles away and have the same objection) and this would effectively deny the patient of a legally prescribed medicine. Guess simplicity isn’t the answer.

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No Explusion

Posted by tungtide on August 15, 2008, 1:15 pm

I’ll keep this short. Webster Cook, the student who unintentionally started the whole sequence of cracker-related shenanigans, has been cleared of all “charges.”

I’ll link to the Friendly Atheist version and leave it at that. Back to studying.

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Lazy Update II

Posted by tungtide on August 6, 2008, 2:03 am

This is more of a link dump than anything else. (It is almost 2am right now and I still can’t sleep).

Over at Friendly Atheist, Hemant linked an article from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. It details the difficulties that the FFRF’s new legal intern faced growing up as a Jehova’s Witness. She lived in fear and oppression before finally gaining the courage to step away.

On the eve of my sixteenth birthday, I called the police. After obtaining a six-month restraining order against my father, I sat in the car, in front of the courthouse, with my maternal grandmother, while my mother attempted to console my father.

Her tale is one that details the negative impact that religion has on families and the growth of children.

Six months later, after six months of peace and quiet and tranquility, I got down on my hands and knees in front of my mother and pleaded and begged her not to let my father back into the house. She said no. She chose him, because she thought that’s what Jehovah wanted her to do.

Her mother chose to live in an abusive, unhealthy relationship that was harmful to her children, all in the name of religion. I was truly at a loss for words by the end.

Second, I have a link from The Information Paradox where author Pariahjane has a simple request

Her post is in response to an attempt to update the “Conscience Clause” for pharmacists who are unwilling to dispense birth control due to religious objections. In recent years (I’m too lazy to find links right now) there have been cases of pharmacists refusing to fill birth control prescriptions and holding those prescriptions without transferring them to another pharmacist or pharmacy to be filled. Currently it is illegal for a pharmacist to refuse to transfer the prescription. They must allow another willing pahrmacist fill the order.

In areas with limited pharmacies and/or limited public transportation, an updated conscience clause would allow these pharmacists to completely (and legally) restrict access to birth control.

Pharmacists, just like everyone else, are entitled to their beliefs. They are not, however, allowed to use their position as a means to promote their own world view.

Finally, I’ve added links to three more blogs on the right. PhillyChief’s You Made Me Say it, The Exterminator’s No More Hornets, and (((Billy))) The Atheist. With the exception of Billy, I’ve been reading the other two blogs for a while now. I got into a discussion with those three in the No More Hornets comment section, so I’ve decided to shamelessly plug them.

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By Association

Posted by tungtide on July 26, 2008, 9:24 pm

Update: With a little additional research I found that Benjamin may have been present in the church with Webster when the eucharist was originally taken. I haven’t been able to confirm that. It would explain why he’s being targeted but provides no justification for the actions taken against him.

I really, really, really wanted to be done posting about Eucharist-related topics. I think it’s been done to death. This, however, had made me more angry than anything else associated with the series of events.

I know Catholics like to lay the guilt on heavily (I know, I used to be one) but Benjamin Collard is finding his academic future in jeopardy (not College Jeopardy!) because of his friendship with Webster Cook. Webster is the one responsible for the whole “stealing” incident in Florida that began the series of events. Benjamin is a friend and had nothing to do with the Eicharist in any way.

“I never spoke to a university official, I never lied about who I was,” Collard added. “I never engaged in any disruptive conduct.  I just think this is absolutely disgusting that they’re going after me.”

and

“Just being associated with this can affect my future,” Collard said. “I had nothing to do with this.”

He’s been locked out of his student account and faces potential expulsion from the university. The theft of the Eucharist should have been a non-event in the first place. A small number of individuals have blow it out of proportion and decided to launch an assult against the student responsible and a friend who is not responsible. Webster returned the Eucharist long ago and never intended to do anything Myers-like with it in the first place. Why can’t this just be over?

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The End of A Cracker

Posted by tungtide on July 24, 2008, 1:15 pm

It’s over and done with. I hadn’t initially planned to post again about the whole PZ Myers and the Eucharist issue, but he made a couple of important points in the process. He has indeed “defiled” a blessed communion wafer, as well as the Koran, and a copy of The God Delusion.

What caught my attention was that he’s been able to remain objective on the issue despite death threats, threats against his family, calls for his job, and a general attempt to defame him.

By the way, I didn’t want to single out just the cracker, so I nailed it to a few ripped-out pages from the Qur’an and The God Delusion. They are just paper. Nothing must be held sacred. Question everything. God is not great, Jesus is not your lord, you are not disciples of any charismatic prophet. You are all human beings who must make your way through your life by thinking and learning, and you have the job of advancing humanities’ knowledge by winnowing out the errors of past generations and finding deeper understanding of reality. You will not find wisdom in rituals and sacraments and dogma, which build only self-satisfied ignorance, but you can find truth by looking at your world with fresh eyes and a questioning mind.

I couldn’t have said it better if I tried.

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Separation Anxiety

Posted by tungtide on July 22, 2008, 2:55 pm

The story of Matthew LaClair is one of disappointment, courage, hope, and despair. Details can be found here (Via Friendly Atheist). In summary, Matthew had an 11th grade history teacher using the classroom as a pulpit for his religious views. Matthew disagreed with the use of a public school classroom for this purpose. He recorded a number of lectures and brought the issue to the attention of the administration. Despite having the law and recordings of the events on his side, there has been a rift in the community. He’s lost friends, and received a death threat.

It’s been two years now, and the town is still divided on the subject. The teacher, Mr. Paszkiewicz is still teaching at the high school (and also runs a local church youth group). On the whole, the town seems to have sided with the teacher’s blatant disregard for the law. An article in the Worcester Telegram & Gazatte News follows up on Matthew’s story (via this post on Atheist Revolution). It appears that no one has really learned a lesson:

“I could have sued, but that wouldn’t have helped,” said Mr. LaClair, who wants to write a book about his experience.

“If I won the case, I’d only get money. There would be no satisfaction because, even to this day, they (school officials) just don’t understand why I made an issue of what happened in those classes.”

Matthew displays a stunning level of maturity in the face of some small-minded individuals.

“I don’t have any problem with what he believes in,” said Mr. LaClair, who spoke yesterday afternoon at the annual summer outing of the Greater Worcester Humanists group. “But I do have a problem about him talking about his religion in a public high school and trying to convert his students.”

I would been unable to do anything along the lines of Matthew when I was his age (ignoring for the moment that I was Christian at that time).

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Hostage Wafer

Posted by tungtide on July 8, 2008, 10:52 pm

Events in real life continue to remind me of things that I’ve seen or read. It seems that a man named Webster Cook “stole” the Eucharist from a Catholic Mass by not actually eating the wafer during communion. Instead he kept what is essentially a wafer-like cracker for himself.

This sparked outrage in the Catholic community and they essentially acused him of kidnapping. PZ Myers put it best when he said “It’s a goddamned cracker

Still I couldn’t help but think that jazzing up the “body of christ” might help things a little so I dug this out of the Expliotation Now archives:

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Rationalizing Abuse

Posted by tungtide on July 7, 2008, 8:52 am

I’ve seen comments and blog posts on this story for about a week now. Essentially Bruce Ware is claiming a biblical rationale for beating his wife. I don’t see any excuse for such an action, let alone one out of a fictional book.

Because it’s early and I’m still tired from my weekend I’ll leave the ranting on the subject to Evolved Rationalist instead. Her thoughts on the subject are clearer (and angrier) than I’m capable of right now.

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Overreaching

Posted by tungtide on June 30, 2008, 7:12 pm

If you are planning to travel to Sydney anytime in the month of July, you might want to check your desire to express yourself at the door. Because of World Youth Day the police will be granted:

Extraordinary new powers will allow police to arrest and fine people for “causing annoyance” to World Youth Day participants and permit partial strip searches at hundreds of Sydney sites, beginning today.

People who fail to comply will be subject to a $5500 fine.

The laws, which operate until the end of July, have the potential to make a crime of wearing a T-shirt with a message on it, undertaking a Chaser-style stunt, handing out condoms at protests, riding a skateboard or even playing music, critics say.

The article from the Sydney Morning Herald is here, while Sean’s blog was where I stumbled across the subject in the first place.

Update (7/7/08): Sean was not arrested for wearing his hat.

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