Sunday, July 26, 2009

Conscience or Career?

By Alan Burkhart

More and more often we encounter news of an employee forced to choose between his or her job and performing an act which that person finds morally reprehensible. This occurs most frequently in the medical and pharmaceutical professions.

Consider the case of Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo,  a nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. According to a recent article in the New York Post:

A Brooklyn nurse [Cenzon-DeCarlo] claims she was forced to choose between her religious convictions and her job when Mount Sinai Hospital ordered her to assist in a late-term abortion against her will.

"It felt like a horror film unfolding," said Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo, 35, who claims she has had gruesome nightmares and hasn't been able to sleep since the May 24 incident...

Cenzon-DeCarlo is a devout Catholic and niece of a Filipino Bishop. Given the Vatican's strict interpretation of scriptures regarding abortion, it's easy to see why the young lady was so upset by the situation.

From the Vatican's "Declaration on procured abortion":
You shall not kill by abortion the fruit of the womb and you shall not murder the infant already born."[6] Athenagoras emphasizes that Christians consider as murderers those women who take medicines to procure an abortion; he condemns the killers of children, including those still living in their mother's womb, "where they are already the object of the care of divine Providence." Tertullian did not always perhaps use the same language; he nevertheless clearly affirms the essential principle: "To prevent birth is anticipated murder; it makes little difference whether one destroys a life already born or does away with it in its nascent stage. The one who will be a man is already one."

However, the abortion in question was evidently not one sought as a matter of convenience or after-the-fact birth control. Was this case  justifiable as a "clinical" abortion? That depends upon whom you ask.

Mt. Sinai Hospital staff allegedly told  Cenzon-DeCarlo that the patient was suffering from preeclampsia and required immediate treatment in the form of a late-term abortion (the patient was 22 weeks into her pregnancy).

Cenzon-DeCarlo claims that the patient was not taking magnesium treatments – the standard therapy for preeclampsia – and showed no outward signs that she was in immediate danger.

WebMD has the following to say regarding preeclampsia and eclampsia :
Also referred to as toxemia, preeclampsia is a condition that pregnant women can get. It is marked by high blood pressure accompanied with a high level of protein in the urine. Women with preeclampsia will often also have swelling in the feet, legs, and hands. Preeclampsia, when present, usually appears during the second half of pregnancy, generally in the latter part of the second or in the third trimesters, although it can occur earlier.

Eclampsia is the final and most severe phase of preeclampsia and occurs when preeclampsia is left untreated. In addition to the previously mentioned signs of preeclampsia, women with eclampsia often have seizures. Eclampsia can cause coma and even death of the mother and baby and can occur before, during, or after childbirth.

Cenzon-DeCarlo has filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming her religious rights were violated.

There also have been several high-profile cases in recent years involving pharmacists who refused to sell female customers a "morning after" pill to terminate a possible pregnancy.

Where do we draw the line between legal / ethical responsibility and religious freedom?

Where do we draw the line regarding an employee's rights and the rights of the customer and the employer?

While I am admantly pro-life, I cannot agree with those who attempt to alter their workplace to fit their own personal beliefs. Let's consider some admittedly over-the-top examples:

  • If you object to pornography, should you apply as a salesperson at "Ample Annie's Triple-X Emporium?"
  • If you're vehemently anti-gun, why are you working at Smith and Wesson?
  • If you're a card-carrying member of PETA, should you be working at a slaughter house?
  • If you are a nurse and you object to abortion, shouldn't you be working at a facility that does not perform abortions?

A business, any business, reflects the personality and beliefs of its owner and management. It is not the place of employees to attempt to fundamentally alter that business. If you're offended by the fact that your boss sells Cajun-Grilled Breast of Spotted Owl, you do not have the right to refuse to serve it. Either take care of the customer, or hunt a new job.

Walgreens sells the "morning after pill." They recently fired several pharmacists who refused to dispense the drug because of their pro-life views. In the moral sense, I agree with the pharmacists. But no one was twisting their arms to make them work at Walgreens. If they found the practice unacceptable, they should have simply moved on.

True enough, President Bush strengthened the rules protecting employees whose conscience was at odds with employer policy. It's also likely that President Obama will undo those rules. And I will find it impossible to disagree with him if he does. The inmates cannot be allowed to run the asylum. For a business to provide goods and services consistent with its mission statement and advertising, everyone has to be on the same page.

As a trucker, if I object to the consumption of alcohol but go to work for a company that routinely hauls beer, how can I complain? When my dispatcher tells me to head over to Miller Brewing Company, shall I tell him, "Sorry, I don't do beer loads?" Do I have that right?

No, I don't. I'm basically asking to get fired and will probably get what I asked for.

If you want your views to be respected, then you must be willing to respect the views of others. Whether you agree with those views is irrelevant. Respect is a two-way street. That's not to say that you can't try sitting down with your boss and discussing the matter. But if your boss says you have to be willing to do whatever it is you find objectionable, then you have two options: You can comply, or you can hit the help wanted section in the classifieds.

The boss may not always be right, but he's always the boss.

Sources and Related Reading:




ACLJ sues Walgreens over ‘morning-after’ pill firings


Anonymous said...

I've been a reader of your blog for a long time, common sense in what you post.

Glad to see your posting more freqently now.

Anonymous said...

The NY Post says "niece" of a Filipino bishop. Is that accurate?I realize this affects only the atmospherics of the case. But bishops' daughters are relatively rare. And that designation leaves a suggestion of hypocrisy. Is it fair so to designate her?

Driving a beer truck for a living means you ... transport beer. Being a nurse means you care for the sick. Add pornographic materials to the to the trucks and you have changed the driver's job. Add the requirement of abortion assistance to the nursing of the sick and you have changed something fundamental in the nurse's job.