In May, during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, two doctors, brothers who follow the Sikh faith, made the difficult decision to shave their religiously significant beards, called kesh, or the practice of keeping uncut hair, in order to accommodate the PPE (personal protective equipment) stocked by their hospital. At Tanenbaum, we believe that providers should not have to make the decision between honoring their faith practices and providing the best care for their patients, when accommodation may very well be available.
Instead, we recognize this dilemma as an issue dictated by personal conscience, or one of the three types of objections covered in our online learning modules on “conscience rules”. Conscience rules can be understood as areas within patient care where a provider’s conscience may impact the care they are capable of providing. In order to better prepare and avoid situations like the one faced by the Sikh doctors, Tanenbaum’s Health Care program has created three online learning modules to help health care providers understand and navigate situations where their conscience or the conscience of their employees may become salient.
In these learning modules, we explore the three types of conscience objections: personal preference, personal conscience and professional integrity. In order to understand how these distinct objection styles function in real-life situations, we offer numerous case studies to practice with.
- Personal Conscience: As previously mentioned, the moral dilemma faced by the Sikh brothers and the absence of PPE options at their hospital is an issue of personal conscience because their choice involves a life or death situation and is influenced by their moral/religious convictions.
- Professional Integrity: A family that identifies as Jehovah’s Witnesses refuses a blood transfusion for their child. The doctor feels that they would be failing their patient (the child) if they do not meet their immediate medical needs and administer the transfusion. How should the doctor navigate this issue? What are the next steps?
- Personal Preference: A doctor does not want to prescribe PrEP for their patient who requests it because they feel as if it will lead to what they believe is morally unacceptable sexual behavior. Why is personal preference different from personal conscience? How should the doctor respond to this issue?
After working your way through the three learning modules, health care providers will have a better grasp on situations where conscience may arise and they will be better prepared to navigate those situations, so the beliefs of providers can be respected without sacrificing the quality of patient care.
Links to all of Tanenbaum’s online modules can be found here.
If you are interested in learning more about Tanenbaum Trigger Topics, you can find the fact sheet explaining the 15 Trigger Topics, or areas of patient care where religion may become salient, here.
For more information about Tanenbaum’s Health Care Membership, please click here.
Special thanks to the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation for supporting the creation of these modules.