By Robert W. Rebar
MD Birmingham, Alabama
As a doctor, I felt it necessary to express deep concerns about Alabama House Bill 31. HB 31 would bar employers from disciplining health care professionals who refuse to provide care, even if a patient’s health is in serious jeopardy. It would also prevent the patient from taking action against the health professional that denied care, even if the patient suffered harm as a result. If enacted, this provision would interfere with a woman’s ability to obtain the medical care she needs.
Imagine that a pregnant woman arrives at the hospital with bleeding and a uterine infection. If untreated, serious infection, hemorrhage, and even shock or death could follow. There is no way to save her pregnancy, but prompt medical treatment can prevent her condition from worsening and preserve her fertility. There is only one doctor on duty and that doctor refuses to tell her that she may need an abortion, because it is not immediately clear that her life could be in jeopardy. The doctor refuses to provide necessary treatment or give a referral to another doctor or facility that can help her. HB 31 could allow a doctor or other health care professional to provide substandard care with no consequences.
All patients deserve to receive the highest quality of care when they seek medical treatment and a health care provider should never deny information or needed care because of his/her personal beliefs. While this bill would not allow a doctor to abandon a woman on her deathbed, it does not provide adequate protections for her health and safety. As medical professionals, we have an ethical duty to ensure that patients have accurate information and are able to make their own medical decisions. The right of a patient to access information and services should always come first.
Health care providers and institutions should ensure that patients have seamless access to accurate information and timely care, including comprehensive reproductive health care. This bill leaves patients vulnerable to inadequate treatment and deprives them of their right to information. HB 31 would hurt Alabama women. Please oppose HB 31.