A Medical Device Daily

The California Supreme Court has ruled that patient demand for nonessential, elective care trumps the freedom of conscience of physicians and their ability to practice medicine in accordance with their religious or moral beliefs.

Denise Burke, VP & legal director of Americans United for Life (AUL; Chicago), said, "This ruling will deny physicians and other professionals the ability to freely exercise their religious convictions. By forcing healthcare professionals to choose between conscience and career, we will lose doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals who are already in short supply."

Charmaine Yoest, PhD, president/CEO of AUL, added, "Medical experts already project that existing shortages of nurses, physicians, and pharmacists will soon worsen, failing to meet future healthcare needs. Legal action to compel healthcare providers to participate in procedures to which they conscientiously object threatens to make the already dangerous situation disastrous."

Mailee Smith, AUL staff counsel, said, "It defies common sense that a patient would want a doctor to violate his or her conscience in practicing medicine. A diminished physician population is not good for medical care."

The case, North Coast Women's Care Medical Group v. Superior Court of San Diego County (Benitez), involves a situation where artificial insemination was not provided due to the marital status of the patient.

Benitez filed suit, arguing that she was not provided the procedure because she is a lesbian. However, the physicians testified that the real issue was her marital status, and that they would not have provided artificial insemination to any single woman.

Ultimately, Benitez received the procedure from another physician after receiving a referral from the objecting physicians (who paid the additional costs she incurred).

Americans United for Life is a nonprofit, public-interest law and policy organization.