Department of Health and Human Services’ New “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division” Threatens End-of-Life Choice

March 23, 2018

This January, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Civil Rights created the “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division.” Its aim is to protect healthcare providers who object to certain procedures on religious or moral grounds. This is a monumental threat to the end-of-life choice movement and patient-centered care.

Under the HHS proposed rules, healthcare providers who oppose various practices could impose their religious beliefs on their patients by withholding vital information about treatment options from them — including end-of-life options such as voluntarily stopping eating and drinking, palliative sedation or medical aid in dying. Federal tax dollars could be used to protect physicians who decide to willfully hold back information from a patient and abandon them when they are at their most vulnerable.

While providers have the right to opt out of participating in healthcare services they object to for reasons of conscience or religious freedom, they still have a legal and moral obligation to fully inform their patients of all end-of-life options or refer them to another healthcare professional who will do so.

In the March 20 edition of The Hill, Kim Callinan, CEO, and Kevin Diaz, national director of legal advocacy, argue the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division “denies access to end-of-life care options to vulnerable patients and sets a dangerous precedent for government intrusion in healthcare decisions.” They continue, “Dying Americans need more options at the end of life, not more government intrusion.”

The HHS is accepting comments on the division through March 27. Compassion & Choices urges supporters to submit statements to the federal government objecting to the proposed rules governing the new division.

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