The AAMC submitted a March 6 comment letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in response to its proposed rule, “Safeguarding the Rights of Conscience as Protected by Federal Statute,” released earlier this year.
Recommendations in the AAMC’s letter followed previous comments to the OCR on federal regulations protecting conscience rights in health care and reiterated that conscience regulations should put the needs of patients first, in line with well-established standards of medical professionalism [refer to Washington Highlights, March 30, 2018].
“Ethical and moral issues within the context of health care are among the most challenging that we face,” the letter stated. “They require a careful balance between the rights of the health care professional to avoid behavior that violates his/her/their moral or ethical code, and the rights of a patient to receive lawful health care services that are safe and medically appropriate. In some circumstances, it is difficult to maintain this balance. When that happens, the health and the rights of the patient, who is in the more vulnerable position, must be given precedence.”
The AAMC letter supported proposals to modify regulations to provide clarity and awareness to federal conscience protections embedded in HHS programs and enforcement procedures. Additionally, the comments supported the proposal to partially rescind the prior rule, referred to as the 2019 Final Rule, in line with prior comments and due to the lack of a reliance interest on those policies, as they have yet to go into effect.