Journal of the American Medical Association | May 20, 2019Read the Publication
On May 2, 2019, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Office of Civil Rights (OCR) released a final rule that heightens the rights of hospitals and health workers to refuse to participate in patients’ medical care based on religious or moral grounds. The rule covers OCR’s authority to investigate and enforce violations of 25 federal “conscience protection” laws. Tied to the US Constitution’s spending power, the rule applies to state and local governments, as well as public and private health care professionals and entities if they receive federal funds such as Medicare or Medicaid. The rule applies to a range of important health services such as abortions, sterilizations, assisted suicide, and advance directives—extending to sex reassignment and HIV treatment.