Bioethics Blogs

Crossing the Line: When Doctors’ Beliefs Endanger Patients’ Autonomy and Health

by Craig M. Klugman, Ph.D.

In 2016 the Illinois legislature passed and Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law Public Act 099-690 (SB 1564), an amendment to the Health Care Right of Conscience Act. This change states “It is also the public policy of the State of Illinois to ensure that patients receive timely access to information and medically appropriate care.” The change requires physicians to inform patients about legal treatment options including their factual risks and benefits, but does not require the physician to perform such services. If the hospital or physician has a conscientious objection to performing a procedure, then the patient must be referred to or transferred to someone or some facility that will.

For this effort, state officers have been sued in both state and federal courts by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of a group of “pregnancy centers,” a doctor and her medical practice in Rockford, IL. Their complaint is that this law “forces them to promote abortion regardless of their ethical of moral views.” In other words, because the law requires doctors to allow patients to know all of their legal options indicated under standard of care and to be transferred elsewhere for services a physician or facility will not perform, this violates their religious freedom. The plaintiffs want it to be legal to lie, obfuscate, and keep information from patients and to keep patients away from legal and safe, medically indicated procedures. Specifically, this suit cites abortion.

Most surprisingly, a judge in a rural county has issued an injunction against the law going into effect (only) for the named plaintiffs.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.