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  • Washington Highlights

    AAMC Comments on Conscience Rights Proposed Rule

    Phoebe Ramsey, Director, Physician Payment & Quality

    The AAMC March 26 submitted comments on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed rule on conscience rights. In its comment letter, the AAMC urges HHS to withdraw the rule as proposed because of concern that the proposal, if finalized, will result in harm to patients, undermine standards of medical professionalism, and raise serious concerns regarding individuals’ rights that are protected by other federal and state laws.

    While AAMC acknowledged that the ethical and moral issues within the context of health care are challenging and require a careful balance, the Association felt that the proposed rule did not adequately protect the health and rights of the patient. It would do harm to lower income Americans, racial and ethnic minorities, the LGBTQ communities, and patients in rural areas – and create or exacerbate inequities in health care access for those whose access may already be limited due to their geographic residence or financial means. Allowing health care professionals to engage in behavior that could harm patients is incongruous with the standards of medical professionalism.

    In response to HHS’s stated concern that medical schools and training programs discriminate against medical students and residents for their religious views, the AAMC commented that accreditation organizations require medical students and residents to be taught to respond to the health care needs of a diverse population while respecting a student or resident’s decision not to receive training in abortions. Both the Liaison Committee for Medical Education (LCME) and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) have standards that are designed to ensure that the education of physicians provides an environment that embraces diversity of views and values for both health care providers and patients.

    Finally, the AAMC expresses concern that HHS did not provide demonstrable need for the proposed regulation, and that the rule would add burdensome requirements without commensurate benefit.