New rule allows physicians to refuse care on grounds of religious, moral beliefs

A new rule issued by HHS under the Trump administration allows physicians, hospitals and insurers to refuse care to certain patients on grounds of religious beliefs—something a New York Times columnist says could lead to “chaos in healthcare.”

Editorialist Sandeep Jauhar, a cardiologist himself, said in the Times that the new rule—which would allow doctors to reject requests for abortions, assisted suicides and procedures for transgender patients—is a tricky one to navigate. While the American Medical Association’s code of ethics states physicians should “place patients’ welfare above their own self-interest,” that same code acknowledges “physicians should have considerable latitude to practice in accord with well-considered, deeply held beliefs that are central to their self-identifies.”

Jauhar said there are select cases where it’s universally acceptable to turn away patients, like if they’re being violent or intransigent. If a patient’s views don’t coincide with their doctor’s and that creates a problem, physicians should direct the patient to another provider whose beliefs better align with theirs.

“Doctors have an obligation to adhere to the norms of their profession,” Jauhar wrote. “In my view, as long as treatments are safe and approved by medical organizations, doctors should have limited leeway in refusing to provide them. Patients’ needs should come first.

At the very least, patients whose medical needs violate a doctor’s deeply considered beliefs should receive a timely referral to an alternative provider. And to avoid such conflicts, medical students who foresee problems of conscience should steer clear of certain fields, such as obstetrics-gynecology, when making career choices. Broad conscientious objection of the sort the Trump administration is defending could lead to chaos in healthcare.”

Read Jauhar’s full editorial below: