Lawsuit challenges when doctors can refuse treatment based on personal views

By Carrie Bradon | Jun 14, 2019

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) – A group of states is suing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over a regulation that grants health providers the right to deny medical treatment and services based on the provider's personal views.

The state of New York, city of New York, state of Colorado, state of Delaware and others filed a complaint on May 21 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against United States Department of Health and Human Services, its Secretary Alex M. Azar II and United States of America citing the Administrative Procedure Act.

The suit concerns the Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care rule, which the plaintiffs allege is in violation of constitutional and statutory limits in that it seeks to coerce the plaintiffs to comply with the defendants' "overbroad" application of federal law. The suit states that if the department determines that the plaintiffs or any of their agencies have failed to comply with the rule, they could be subject to termination, withholding or denial of federal health care funds.

The rule allegedly harms the plaintiffs through undermining the various plaintiffs' health care policies and laws and interferes with the plaintiffs' ability to protect the health and welfare of their residents, the suit states.

"This change to put providers above patients comes at a dangerous price: it will undermine the plaintiffs’ ability to administer their health care systems and deliver patient care effectively and efficiently," the suit states.

The plaintiffs are seeking declaration that the rule is unconstitutional, to vacate the rule and any relief that the court deems proper. The plaintiffs are represented by Matthew Colangelo, Lisa Landau, Lilia Toson, Justin Deabler, Brooke Tucker, Amanda Meyer of Office of the New York State Attorney General in New York and others.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York case number 1:19-CV-04676

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Attorney General of the State of New York Delaware Attorney General's Office U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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