Ohio enacts health care conscience protections

Ohio state capitol / Leonid Andronov/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jul 6, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Ohio state law now includes conscience protections for medical professionals, after Governor Mike DeWine (R) signed a state budget bill into law on June 30.

“Governor DeWine should be commended for his commitment to dignified health care. His clear understanding that health care professionals must have the right to freedom of conscience is vital to ensuring the health and safety of our patients,” said Dr. Michael Parker, president of the Catholic Medical Association, in a July 1 statement.

Signed on the night of June 30, HB 110 says that doctors, health care workers, hospitals, and insurers can “decline to perform, participate in, or pay for any health care service” which violates their consciences.

Parker commended DeWine for signing the protections into law despite opposition; he said that DeWine’s actions will protect healthcare professionals and patients for years to come. 

“Conscience freedom is a civil right which must be protected so that medical professionals have the freedom to care for patients from a scientific, moral and ethical standpoint,” Parker said.

The legislation states that when medical professionals decline to perform or assist in a procedure because of conscientious objections, they must report their objection to their supervisor. 

Then, “when possible and when the medical practitioner is willing,” the practitioner should attempt to transfer the patient to a colleague who will provide the requested procedure. However, if transferring the patient also violates the medical professional’s conscience, or no willing colleague is identified, then “the patient shall be notified and provided the opportunity to seek an alternate medical practitioner.”

The conscience amendment within the budget legislation was sponsored by state Senator Dr. Terry Johnson, who is a doctor of osteopathic medicine. 

Louis Brown, Jr., Esq., executive director of the Christ Medicus Foundation, praised DeWine and the Ohio Legislature “for stepping into the breach to protect the civil right of medical conscience and to help safeguard the life, health, and dignity of patients in Ohio.”

Brown said the new conscience protections are “key” to preserving a diverse health care workforce that welcomes medical professionals of faith instead of driving them out.

“Importantly,” Brown added, “these new medical conscience protections compliment federal laws that protect patients from unjust discrimination and that require hospitals to provide emergency medical treatment to patients.”

Brown said he was confident the new law would help patients find medical professionals that respect their moral, ethical, and religious beliefs. 

“By protecting the right of medical conscience and upholding the principle that medical professionals should ‘do no harm’ to the patient, these new medical conscience provisions help safeguard the life, health and dignity of patients in Ohio,” Brown said.