April 21, 2015 — Illinois lawmakers are considering legislation (SB 1564) that would require hospitals to inform patients that they can go to another facility to receive certain medical services, such as contraceptives, that violate a hospital's religious beliefs, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The bill would change the state's Health Care Right of Conscience Act, which allows institutions and employees to refuse to provide certain services because of ethical and religious reasons. According to experts, objections under the law can include opposition to providing contraception, gender transition care or certain end-of-life services.
The change would apply to all hospitals in the state. However, the measure would have particular relevance for Catholic-affiliated hospitals, which handle about 25% of all admissions in the state.
State Sen. Daniel Biss (D), the measure's sponsor, said, "You have to protect the right of the health care provider to provide care that is consistent with their faith. And simultaneously, you have to protect the patient's right to have information as well as access to care. I think this bill does both."
Patrick Cacchione, executive director of the Illinois Catholic Hospital Association, said that while the group will not fight the proposal, it is "a bill in search of a problem." He noted that patients in Catholic-affiliated hospitals already are supposed to be told of all treatment options, even if such hospitals opt not to provide them.
Meanwhile, Debra Stulberg, assistant professor at the University of Chicago School of Medicine's Department of Family Medicine, voiced support for the measure. She noted that 52% of obstetricians and gynecologists who participated in a 2009 survey and were employed by Catholic hospitals reported conflicts with patient care and religious policies.
"What concerns me is that physicians have told us of situations where their hands were tied in the medical care they could provide in situations where the patient's well-being really was at stake," she said, adding that the proposal would help bolster patients' knowledge and well-being (Brachear Pashman, Chicago Tribune, 4/17).