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BILL AS INTRODUCED 2007-2008

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H.315

Introduced by Representatives Donahue of Northfield, Baker of West Rutland, Branagan of Georgia, Brennan of Colchester, Clark of Vergennes, Devereux of Mount Holly, Donaghy of Poultney, Flory of Pittsford, Helm of Castleton, Hudson of Lyndon, Kilmartin of Newport City, McAllister of Highgate, Morrissey of Bennington and Wheeler of Derby

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Health; providers; rights of conscience

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to respect and protect the fundamental rights of conscience of all individuals who provide health care services.

AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH CARE RIGHTS OF CONSCIENCE

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:


Sec. 1.  18 V.S.A. part 11 is added to read:

PART 11.  HEALTH CARE SERVICES

CHAPTER 1.  RIGHTS OF CONSCIENCE

§ 9801.  PURPOSE

The purpose of this part is to protect the fundamental rights of conscience of all individuals who provide health care services.

§ 9802.  DEFINITIONS

As used in this part:

(1)  “Conscience” means the religious, moral, or ethical principles held by a health care provider, health care institution, or health care payer.  For purposes of this part, a health care institution or health care payer’s conscience shall be determined by reference to its existing or proposed religious, moral, or ethical guidelines, mission statement, constitution, bylaws, articles of incorporation, regulations, or other relevant documents.

(2)  “Employer” means any individual or entity that pays for or provides health benefits or health insurance coverage as a benefit to its employees, whether through a third party, a health maintenance organization, a program of self‑insurance, or some other means.

(3)  “Health care institution” means any public or private organization, corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, association, agency, network, joint venture, or other entity that is involved in providing health care services, including hospitals, clinics, medical centers, ambulatory surgical centers, private physicians’ offices, pharmacies, nursing homes, university medical schools and nursing schools, medical training facilities, or other institutions or locations that provide health care services to any person.

(4)  “Health care payer” means any entity or employer that contracts, pays, or arranges for the payment of, in whole or in part, any health care service or product, including health maintenance organizations, health plans, insurance companies, or management service organizations.

(5)  “Health care provider” means any individual who may be asked to participate in any way in a health care service, including:  a physician, physician’s assistant, nurse, nurse’s aide, medical assistant, hospital employee, clinic employee, nursing home employee, pharmacist, pharmacy employee, researcher; medical or nursing school faculty member, student, or employee; counselor, or social worker; or any professional, paraprofessional, or any other person who furnishes or assists in the furnishing of health care services.

(6)  “Health care service” means any phase of patient medical care or treatment or any procedure, including patient referral, counseling, therapy, testing, diagnosis, prognosis, research, and instruction; prescribing, dispensing, or administering any device, drug, or medication, surgery; or any other care or treatment rendered by health care providers or health care institutions.

(7)  “Part” means this part 11 of this title.

(8)  “Participate” in a health care service means to counsel, advise, provide, perform, assist in, refer for, admit for purposes of providing, or participate in providing any health care service or any form of such service.

(9)  “Pay” or “make payment” means to pay, contract for, or otherwise arrange for the payment of, in whole or in part.

§ 9803.  Rights of Conscience of Health Care Providers

(a)  A health care provider has the right not to participate, and no health care provider shall be required to participate, in a health care service that violates his or her conscience.

(b)  No health care provider shall be civilly, criminally, or administratively liable for declining to participate in a health care service that violates his or her conscience.

(c)  It shall be unlawful for any person, health care provider, health care institution, public or private institution, public official, or any board which certifies competency in medical specialties to discriminate against any health care provider in any manner based on his or her declining to participate in a health care service that violates his or her conscience.  For purposes of this part, discrimination includes termination; transfer; refusal of staff privileges; refusal of board certification; adverse administrative action; demotion; loss of career specialty; reassignment to a different shift; reduction of wages or benefits; refusal to award any grant, contract, or other program; refusal to provide residency training opportunities; or any other penalty or disciplinary or retaliatory action.

§ 9804.  Rights of Conscience of Health Care Institutions

(a)  A health care institution has the right not to participate, and no health care institution shall be required to participate, in a health care service that violates its conscience. 

(b)  A health care institution that declines to provide or participate in a health care service that violates its conscience shall not be civilly, criminally, or administratively liable if the institution provides a consent form to be signed by a patient before admission to the institution stating that it reserves the right to decline to provide or participate in health care services that violate its conscience.

(c)  It shall be unlawful for any person, public or private institution, or public official to discriminate against any health care institution or any person, association, corporation, or other entity attempting to establish a new health care institution or operating an existing health care institution, in any manner, including any denial, deprivation, or disqualification with respect to licensure, any aid assistance, benefit, or privilege, including staff privileges, or any authorization, including authorization to create, expand, improve, acquire, affiliate, or merge with any health care institution because such health care institution, person, association, or corporation planning, proposing, or operating a health care institution declines to participate in a health care service which violates the health care institution’s conscience. 

(d)  It shall be unlawful for any public official, agency, institution, or entity to deny any form of aid, assistance, grants, or benefits, or in any other manner to coerce, disqualify, or discriminate against any person, association, corporation, or other entity attempting to establish a new health care institution or operating an existing health care institution because the existing or proposed health care institution declines to participate in a health care service contrary to the health care institution’s conscience. 

§ 9805.  Rights of Conscience of Health Care Payers

(a)  A health care payer has the right to decline to pay for, and no health care payer shall be required to pay for or arrange for the payment of, any health care service or product that violates its conscience.

(b)  No health care payer, person, association, corporation, or other entity that owns, operates, supervises, or manages a health care payer shall be civilly or criminally liable by reason of the health care payer’s declining to pay for or arrange for the payment of any health care service that violates its conscience.

(c)  It shall be unlawful for any person, public or private institution, or public official to discriminate against any health care payer, person, association, corporation, or other entity either attempting to establish a new health care payer or currently operating an existing health care payer in any manner, including any denial, deprivation, or disqualification with respect to licensure, aid, assistance, benefit, privilege, or authorization, including any authorization to create, expand, improve, acquire, affiliate, or merge with any health care payer, because a health care payer, person, association, corporation, or other entity planning, proposing, or operating a health care payer declines to pay for or arrange for the payment of any health care service that violates its conscience.

(d)  It shall be unlawful for any public official, agency, institution, or entity to deny any form of aid, assistance, grants, or benefits, or in any other manner to coerce, disqualify, or discriminate against any health care payer, person, association, corporation, or other entity attempting to establish a new health care payer or operating an existing health care payer because the existing or proposed health care payer declines to pay for or arrange for the payment of any health care service that is contrary to its conscience.

§ 9806.  Civil Remedies

(a)  A civil action for damages or injunctive relief or both may be brought for the violation of any provision of this part.  It shall not be a defense to any claim arising out of the violation of this part that such violation was necessary to prevent additional burden or expense on any other health care provider, health care institution, individual, or patient.

(b)  Any individual, association, corporation, entity, or health care institution injured by any public or private individual, association, agency, entity, or corporation by reason of any conduct prohibited under this part may commence a civil action.  Upon finding a violation under this part, the aggrieved party shall be entitled to recover treble the actual damages, including pain and suffering, sustained by such individual, association, corporation, entity, or health care institution, recover costs, and recover reasonable attorney’s fees.  In no case shall recovery be less than $5,000.00 for each violation in addition to costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.  These damage remedies shall be cumulative and not exclusive of other remedies afforded under any other state or federal law.

(c)  The court in a civil action may award injunctive relief, including ordering reinstatement of a health care provider to his or her prior job position.

Sec. 2.  SEVERABILITY

The provisions under this act are declared to be severable, and if any provision, word, phrase, clause, or the application thereof to any person is determined to be invalid, such invalidity shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this act. 



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us