FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine: Conscience Rights Implications for Healthcare Providers - McDermott Will & Emery

FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine: Conscience Rights Implications for Healthcare Providers

Overview


The Supreme Court of the United States’s (SCOTUS’s) unanimous decision in Food and Drug Administration v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine (FDA v. AHM) on June 13, 2024, articulated a much more absolute view of the protections federal law affords to individual healthcare provider personnel to refuse to participate in the provision of certain healthcare for personal conscience reasons than has ever previously been articulated in the text, legislative history or judicial interpretation of the relevant federal statutes. That aspect of SCOTUS’s decision may lead to a significant uptick in the number of conscience-based opt-out requests that healthcare provider organizations receive from members of their workforces (e.g., physicians, nurses), while simultaneously making each such request more difficult to address without significant cost or liability exposure.

All organizations that employ, or independently contract with, individual workers to provide any type of healthcare services that are likely to generate conscience-based objections should become familiar with this new articulation of the scope of individual conscience-based opt-out rights and work together with knowledgeable counsel on how to handle such requests when they arise. As detailed in this report, it remains to be seen how this recent articulation will interact with more established federal laws that address the balance between individual rights and employer burdens.