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Editorial: A patient has a right to know all her medical options

No doctor, nurse or other health care worker should be required by law to provide a service, most notably an abortion, that runs counter to his or her religious convictions.

But no patient should be kept in the dark about her full range of legal medical options, especially when her life depends on it.

EDITORIAL

We strongly support a bill in Springfield, an amendment to the Health Care Right of Conscience Act, that would assure that patients get the information they need to seek treatment in accordance with modern medicine’s standard of care. The bill, SB 1564, bends over backward to accommodate religious belief, so much so that the Catholic Hospital Association and the Catholic Conference of Illinois no longer are opposed.

Why is such a law necessary? Consider the classic case of a woman whose water breaks early in pregnancy and there is almost no hope the baby will survive. At a Catholic hospital she may not be told that inducing labor is a recommended treatment option. Instead, she might well be given antibiotics as she waits for a miscarriage, during which time she runs a significant risk of infection or hemorrhaging.

The bill would not require health care workers to assist in that abortion. They would be required only to tell the patient of her treatment options, and to provide a written list of obstetrician-gynecologists to which the patient could go in the “reasonable” belief that the services are offered.

The bill would not require doctors to talk about illegal treatments, such as genital mutilation, as some critics have claimed. Nor would it require a doctor to offer information that the patient, on religious grounds, might not want to hear. If a doctor and a patient share a religious objection to certain treatments and procedures, they could come to an understanding up-front that they will not discuss those treatment options.

Equally important, the bill does not “discriminate” against people who refuse to perform, participate in or refer for abortion. Rather, the bill strongly accommodates religious belief, and as such would not violate federal law. There is simply no danger Illinois would be deprived of federal funds.

If a man has an aching back, he might be troubled by a doctor who discussed surgery as an option but, for whatever reason, fails to tell him about treatment options short of surgery, such as steroid shots. The patient has a right to know all his options.

To be just as fully informed of the standard of care for other medical concerns — tubal ligations, the use of contraceptives, abortions and the like — is no less a patient’s legal and ethical right.