Monday, March 01, 2004

Reckless Abandon
Health-care crisis? What health-care crisis? Wisconsin State Senator Judy Robson is a registered nurse, and she wrote a column for our progressive website, FightingBob.com, on the state of health care legislation up here. Some of the bills bottled up in committee include one that would prohibit mandatory overtime for nurses and health care workers, thus addressing a burnout problem that is driving qualified providers from the field, and a bill that would require doctors to tell rape victims about the availability of emergency contraception. A resolution urging Congress to permit importation of prescription drugs is languishing as well. These are constructive bills that address real problems in the real world.

Meanwhile, one bill that has sailed through the Republican-dominated legislature and onto the governor's desk is Assembly Bill 67, which would expand the so-called "conscience clause" to permit doctors to refuse to treat patients for certain conditions--most often involving the care of pregnant mothers and fetuses, but also end-of-life issues such as withdrawing treatment to a terminally ill patient. Current law permits doctors to opt out of such procedures for reasons of conscience, but it requires them to refer such patients to other doctors. The new bill doesn't require such referrals. In other words, says Robson, it sanctions patient abandonment. If your doctor doesn't want you to have a certain type of treatment because of his personal religious or moral beliefs--the Hippocratic Oath be damned--he doesn't have to give it to you or see that you get it. Period.

The way legislative Republicans jumped on this, you'd think there was a plague of doctors being forced to treat people they don't want to treat--but of course, there isn't. This is political theater. And what Robson doesn't get into in her column is the source of nutball legislation like this. Wisconsin Right to Life is one of the most virulent right-wing organizations of its kind in the country. They're against abortion of any kind for any reason, period. Life of the mother in danger? Tough. Rape victim? Too bad. They're even against contraception. They've pushed "conscience" bills before, which would let pharmacists opt out of prescribing birth control pills, for instance. And their fingerprints are all over Assembly Bill 67, too.

(This post has been edited since it originally appeared.)

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?