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David Ripley: Senate Passes Conscience Protections

February 27th, 2010 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

By a vote of 21-13, the Idaho State Senate gave its approval to SB1353 this morning following lengthy debate.

In contrast to the committee hearing, much of the debate this morning was focused on the consequences of acknowledging the conscience rights of providers in end-of-life situations.

Sen. Les Bock (D-Boise) made one of the more emotional arguments against the bill by describing the decision-making of his family when faced with the challenge of creating a “peaceful resolution” for their mother’s life. He lamented the notion that a doctor or nurse might impose their moral or ethical concerns into a family’s plans for administering legal procedures designed to hasten death. Bock contended that acknowledging the conscience rights of medical professionals would only complicate already-difficult situations for families.

But, of course, what Bock failed to acknowledge is that families in such difficult circumstances do not have the right to forcibly implicate another – even their doctor — in immoral actions. Moreover, his argument failed to recognize that SB1353 only protects the right of a nurse or pharmacist or doctor to withdraw from treatments they find morally challenging.

Sen. Russ Fulcher responded by noting that it was the medical community itself which offered the language referring to “end of life treatment and care”, and that this broader definition would afford medical professionals an opportunity to exercise their moral and scientific judgment when faced with difficult situations.

Sen. Chuck Winder skillfully led the debate on behalf of the legislation, arguing that it struck a practical balance between the rights of medical providers, employers and patients.

Sen. Shirley McKague joined in defense of the legislation by reminding senators of the constitutional principles at stake in safe-guarding liberty. She offered a quote from Thomas Jefferson which featured conscience rights as our most precious liberty.

Republicans John Andreason, Joyce Broadsword, Chuck Coiner, Tim Corder, Shawn Keough, Joe Stegner and Gary Schroeder joined Senate Democrats in opposing the legislation.

SB1353 now goes to the House for a committee hearing.

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