Testimony addresses conscience protection for health care workers
Ethical issues have become more complex
The Wisconsin Catholic Conference has submitted written testimony
to the Assembly Committee on Labor and Workforce Development in
support of AB 168, which enhances conscience protection for
health care professionals.
The testimony from Kathy Markeland, conference associate
director, said the bill would expand the current limited right of
conscience for health care workers to take into account
"continuing changes in medical technology that present new moral
and ethical dilemmas for health care practitioners."
The procedures or practices the bill covers "represent a fairly
narrow set of circumstances in which a health care professional
could object to participation based upon his or her belief
regarding the value of human life," Markeland testified.
"Our tradition calls Catholics to refuse to cooperate in actions
that have the effect of destroying or demeaning human life," she
said. "This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking
respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact
that civil law permits it or requires it."
Each individual is morally responsible for their acts, she said.
To refuse to take part in committing an injustice is both a moral
duty and a basic human right, she added, that "should be
acknowledged and protected by civil law" in accord with Pope John
Paul's encyclical, The Gospel of Life.
She noted how the law recognizes the "right of an individual to
conscientiously object to engaging in armed conflict ... for
deeply held moral convictions ... because doing so may compel the
individual to kill or harm other human beings. Moral reservations
about medical procedures deserve the same consideration as moral
reservations about fighting a war."
Already, Markeland said, individuals differ in their beliefs
about the "value and meaning of human life at various stages of
development. History has shown us that as science and technology
continue to advance our understanding of the human person, the
ethical issues have only become more complex.
"Health care professionals stand on the front lines addressing
these complex issues with a sworn responsibility to uphold the
value of life and do no harm," she said. "The health care
community is not weakened but instead made stronger by
accommodating the differing beliefs of those who genuinely seek
to respect and value human life."