Human Exceptionalism

Will Doctors be Forced to Kill?

The left’s reaction to Hobby Lobby is part cynicism–”war on women” nonsense–and part true belief.  And it demonstrates that many progressives aren’t civil libertarians–since a true civil libertarian will care about protecting freedoms in which they have no personal skin in the game.

The denial of conscience has significant implications beyond birth control, and raises the question of whether medical professionals may be required one day to kill.

That’s the subject of my biweekly First Things column. First, I set up the problem. From, “Will Doctors be Forced to Kill?”

The wailing and gnashing of teeth in some quarters over the modest Hobby Lobby decision has me worried. Apparently, many on the political port side of the country believe that once a favored public policy has been enacted, it immediately becomes a “right” that can never be altered or denied. More, once such a “right” is established for the individual, others should have the duty to ensure access—even at the cost of violating their own religious consciences.

If such thinking prevails, medical professionals could be forced to participate in the taking of human life, for example in abortion, assisted suicide, and (given the research trends in regenerative medicine) providing treatments derived from the intentional destruction of human embryos or fetuses.

I get into the ACLU trolling for clients to (I believe) bring suit against religious institutions or individuals that have denied the right to interventions and transactions–even those like abortion and assisted suicide that involve killing.

I point out that the RFRA does not protect these conscientious objections from state laws that allow medicalized killing and that the religious left is not about to cooperate in creating any more state laws in this regard because of its potential impact on issues such as gay rights.

And I note that much of the medical establishment is hostile toward medical conscience. I conclude that forcing medical professionals to be complicit in killing could result in a professional culling:

Such denial of medical conscience is not yet embedded in American law. But if the anti-religious liberties lobby gets its way, it will be. Indeed, in coming years, medical professionals who believe in the Hippocratic Oath’s prohibition against killing could well be driven out of medicine.

It will be tragic if only those with the least regard for the intrinsic dignity and sanctity of human life are allowed to practice medicine, nursing, pharmacology, and the other healing professions.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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