In medical care, the patient’s rights
must come first
Religious faith can be an important resource for some patients, providing guidance, hope or acceptance in the face of serious illness.
But medical care that is restricted by institutional religious doctrine or the provider’s moral beliefs can pose a significant threat to patients’ rights and access to care.
- Pharmacists may refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives and other medicines they view as morally unacceptable.
- Hospitals may ban treatment that conflicts with religious doctrine.
- Employers and managed care plans may refuse to provide health insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization or abortion.
- Physicians may refuse to provide fertility services to families they find morally unacceptable.
- Politicians responding to religious conservatives may enact laws that make it difficult for patients to refuse end-of-life treatment.
MergerWatch is dedicated to the principle that health care should be guided by accurate medical information and the patient’s own religious or ethical beliefs. In medical decision-making, the patient’s rights must come first.
Tracey Brooks of New York State Family Planning Advocates talks about the history of MergerWatch.
Medical care that is based on religious doctrine or the provider’s moral beliefs represents a significant, though under-recognized, threat to patients’ rights and access to care at hospitals, clinics, managed care plans, pharmacies and even doctors’ offices across the nation. The mission of the MergerWatch project is to advocate for health care policies, practices and delivery systems which ensure that medical care is guided by scientifically-accurate, unbiased medical information and each patient’s own religious or ethical beliefs. We believe that the needs and rights of patients must come first in medical decision-making and in the design of health care delivery systems.
The MergerWatch Project was founded in 1996 at the Education Fund of Family Planning Advocates of New York State. The Project was created after a merger between religious and secular hospitals in Troy, NY, caused the loss of contraceptive services at an outpatient clinic that had been operated by the secular hospital. The merged entity had adopted the health care policies of the religiously-sponsored partner hospital, which included a ban on contraception.
MergerWatch was created to find ways of intervening to save key reproductive health services before religious/secular mergers were given government approval and finalized. Since its founding, MergerWatch has assisted grass roots coalitions fighting to protect services threatened by religious/secular hospital mergers in more than 100 communities located across the nation. We have a strong record of success in protecting patients’ rights and access to health care services.
The project has expanded to address a wide range of religiously-based restrictions on health care. Reflecting that expanded mission and its national reach, the MergerWatch Project moved in July of 2005 from Albany, NY, to New York City. The project became an affiliate of Community Catalyst, a national consumer health advocacy organization.