The Michigan Senate’s Committee on Health Policy approved Senate Bill 975, a bill that protects health care professionals who wish to discriminate against LGBT individuals “as a matter of conscience.” This includes “religious beliefs, moral convictions, or ethical principles,” and frees health professionals who invoke their conscience from any repercussions. If they refuse to provide life-saving care to an LGBT individual (or, in reality, anyone they deem undeserving of care based on their religious beliefs), they will not be held responsible for what happens.
Basically, there is no legal recourse for anyone harmed as a result of this bill. In fact, the bill also has protections in place that indicate that facilities that choose to discriminate based on “conscience” cannot be denied public funding or grants. This bill serves only to protect discrimination while leaving many people at risk. It is already difficult for LGBT individuals to receive proper health care; Senate Bill 975 stands to make the situation worse. With this bill, gay, bisexual, and trans* patients can be denied any type of care, from basic checkups to STD testing.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have seen something like this. For instance, a group of nurses in New Jersey filed a lawsuit against the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey after they were no longer allowed to abstain from caring for patients who have had an abortion. In Kansas (and several other states, including Ohio, Oklahoma, and Arizona), a bill was proposed that would allow doctors to withhold information that may lead a woman to consider having an abortion, such as evidence that there are abnormalities in the fetus. The bill also protected such doctors from being sued for lying to their patients.
Although it can be difficult to view situations objectively, especially when it comes to religious beliefs, but there are certain professions for which this is absolutely necessary. If health care professionals cannot see past their biases, they should not be in the health care profession, period. There should be no exceptions for this. They cannot decide that someone is unworthy of care based on their personal beliefs. Doctors and nurses should be concerned with protecting patients, all patients, and not with protecting bigotry.