As a growing number of Americans tell pollsters that they renounce religion and see its practice diminish in importance in their lives, those with religious fervor find a federal justice system willing to delve into the intricacies of faith and medicine in deeply polarizing ways.
The looming midterm elections, according to pollsters, have already been upset by the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of half a century of established law returning to states critical decisions regarding women’s reproductive health and the authorization of abortions, including in cases of rape and incest.
A Texas federal judge with demonstrated extreme views has further fanned the growing fires over religion and health care in declare unconstitutional the process by which Obamacare decides what types of preventative health care should be covered by private health insurance, such as the New York Times and other media reported.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor – who has already been overturned by top courts in his effort to strike down the entire landmark Affordable Care Act that provided health coverage to tens of millions of poor, working poor and middle-class Americans – specifically sought to prevent a Christian company from having to pay for HIV medications for its employees, saying it violated the religious freedoms of the owners.
Critics attacked the decision, pointing out to begin with that the company, Braidwood Management, and its owner, Dr. Steven F. Hotze, described to The New York Times as a well-known Republican donor and Houston doctor, did not been obliged to make any payment for the drugs in question. He simply claimed that the potential demand to do so would force him to tolerate homosexuality, which he says his Christian faith rejects.
Another problem critics see with this case and its underpinnings: It’s a lie that HIV prevention and treatment is only for gay men, as reported by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1 in 5 new infections in 2020 were in heterosexual women and 1 in 10 cases involved intravenous drug users (who may or may not have also had same-sex relationships).
O’Connor’s decision has another important collateral consequence, as he also rejected the federal government’s reliance on expert health advice provided by independent, nonpartisan experts who voluntarily serve on the US Preventive. Services Task Force.
The task force, which solicits public input and examines available data on a range of medical services, publishing its rigorous findings in detail in leading medical journals, has won praise for providing clear and helpful advice on controversial health issues, including mammograms, prostate tests, vitamin intake to prevent cancer, and daily low-dose aspirin use to stave off heart disease.
O’Connor, however, said the panel is unconstitutional in its action because its recommendations are binding while its members are not appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
The American Medical Association and other medical groups have denounced O’Connor’s decision, on which the judge asked the parties involved to provide further briefs and which will likely be appealed when he will be final.
Ruth Marcus, Washington Post columnist and associate editor of the newspaper’s editorial pages, wrote about the challenges posed by a growing battery of cases involving religion and health care. It traces the current upheavals, in part, not only to the recent High Court abortion decision, but also to an earlier decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, in which “the court declared that the religious freedom of a private company had been violated by the contraceptive mandate of the ACA”. She argues this:
“My aim here is not to despise freedom of religion. As a member of a minority religion, I am sensitive to such arguments. Some of them — as in the case of the religious baker called upon to create a bespoke cake for a same-sex wedding — present difficult stakes. But, as this dispute [on HIV drugs] demonstrates, things have gone absolutely haywire and, in this era of conservative-dominated courts, are now leaning too far in the direction of religious rights. Medicine has made enormous progress since the emergence of the AIDS epidemic. Antiviral drugs PrEP – short for pre-exposure prophylaxis – reduce the risk of contracting HIV through sex by 99%. As a result, a government advisory committee in 2019 recommended that the drugs be part of the mandatory fully subsidized preventive care package. This is a development that everyone should applaud, including people who call themselves Christians: it avoids unnecessary deaths.
In my practice, I not only see harms experienced by patients when seeking medical services, but also their difficulties in accessing and paying for safe, effective and excellent health care. It has become an ordeal with the skyrocketing cost, complexity and uncertainty of treatments and prescription drugs, too many of them turn out to be dangerous drugs.
In a world of rapid and shocking change, the practice of medicine has become legendary for its conservatism. It may take years for the widely reported results of rigorous clinical trials to turn into accepted bedside treatments. Of course, it’s great when medical-scientific advances are so powerful that they transform certain aspects of medical treatment.
But when patients’ lives are at stake, it makes sense for medicine to embrace cautious, evidence-based care, rejecting fads and seeming improvements that, alas, can prove harmful. These are not rare, alas, and the chronicles report surgical “breakthroughs” which end up debilitating or killing patients (think of the cancer-propagating “morcellator” used on women) or prescription drugs presented as miracle drugs that are not (think thalidomide).
Uncertainty is not a happy feature of financial markets or medical treatments. Clear and carefully established standards for doctors, nurses and hospitals have helped to significantly improve modern health care.
Courts must take great care to become an external and disruptive force, particularly if the public reputation of the judiciary is endangered by the slightest appearance of political partisanship. Most health workers and institutions across the country are struggling to provide the best medical treatment available to patients, even as the nation’s highest court has seemingly erased the standards of care developed over decades for health care medicine. base such as when life beginsmuch less when a woman’s life is in sufficient danger, legally speaking, for medical intervention.
We are a nation that has flourished in accommodating and accepting many viewpoints. We have a lot of work to do to ensure that this democratic ideal endures and that caution, nuance, compassion and common sense are not overwhelmed by extremists.