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Update to Health Care Right of Conscience Act

Photo of Karen Lavin

Illinois is a fascinating state with an enormously diverse population, which can be both a great strength and a frustrating liability. While we are home to Chicago, one of the largest and most progressive cities in the country, there are many residents of Illinois whose beliefs and ethics are challenged by many progressive efforts.

Rarely is this in starker relief then when it comes to controversial medical care laws like the Health Care Right of Conscience Act, which recently saw some important changes that will take effect January 1st.

Under the Health Care Right of Conscience Act as it stands now, prior to the recent changes, medical personnel can refuse to perform medical procedures that are in conflict with their personal beliefs, or even refuse to give medical information to those in great need if they believe that their conscience is being violated. While this may seem like a worthy protection of personal liberties, there are many instances in which it can turn deadly.

If a woman is receiving prenatal care from a doctor who is opposed to abortion, or from an institution that is opposed to abortion, under some circumstances, she may not receive proper medical care.

For instance, she may be receiving prenatal care at a Catholic hospital, or from a medical practitioner who doesn't believe abortion should ever be a solution to complications in the pregnancy — even when they may lead to her harm or death, or the harm or death of the child.

Similarly, if an ambulance driver arrives at a scene and then is informed that the person in need has called to be taken to a hospital for an emergency abortion, that ambulance has the right to refuse this service, which may end up in the loss of life of the mother (and therefore the child as well).

Under the new version of the law, medical personnel still retain the right to refuse services that violate their consciences, but will be required to give patients information on advantages and disadvantages of procedures or treatments. Those unwilling to perform certain procedures or treatments must then refer patients to another willing provider, or inform them where they can seek treatment.

If you believe that you have faced an illegal violation of your right to medical care or medical information, the guidance of an experienced attorney can help you pursue justice.

Source: Peoria Public Radio, "Illinois Issues: Culture Wars Go To Court," Maureen Foertsch McKinney, Nov. 14, 2016

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