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News & Press: Membership Matters

From the HPA President: Recent HHS Final Rule

Thursday, May 16, 2019  
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From HPA President Matt Mesibov, PT, GCS

A couple of weeks ago, both the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and HPA The Catalyst’s PT Proud Committee have published position statements against the Health and Human Services’ (HHS) newly issued final rule, “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority." The rule allows healthcare workers to refuse to provide healthcare services based on their religious or moral beliefs.

As President of HPA the Catalyst, I am coming out in agreement with APTA’s statement and our Section’s PT Proud position, which do NOT support this final rule.

Part of PT Proud’s statement includes the following: “The denial of care encourages discrimination of already vulnerable patient populations facing frequent and pervasive discrimination when seeking healthcare, including sexual and gender minority patients.” The rule directly discriminates against many patient populations, including the LGBTQ community, people living with HIV, and women seeking reproductive healthcare services.

As a Section of APTA, HPA The Catalyst is a strict adherer to the APTA Code of Ethics, which begins with:

Principle #1: Physical therapists shall respect the inherent dignity and rights of all individuals.
(Core Values: Compassion, Integrity)
1A. Physical therapists shall act in a respectful manner toward each person regardless of age, gender, race, nationality, religion, ethnicity, socio or economic status, sexual orientation, health condition, or disability.
1B. Physical therapists shall recognize their personal biases and shall not discriminate against others in physical therapist practice, consultation, education, research, and administration.

The HHS rule is a complete counteraction to this very first principle, which sets the foundation for patient-centered care. APTA’s policy on commitment to person-centered services also states: "Denying services based on religious or personal objection may encourage health care professionals to shift from a person‐centered focus to one aimed at the needs or beliefs of the provider."

Further, I strongly warn of the slippery slope to which this rule can contribute while at the same time acknowledge respectfully that we have membership that may favor this rule and disagree with this statement. Recognizing that our membership is diverse and includes varying opinions, I am sharing the following responses from APTA to commenters on their social media postings:

  • APTA has no position on abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide, and the HHS rule is not limited to those examples. The HHS rule enables providers to deny "any lawful health service" based on "religious beliefs or moral convictions."
  • While specific services like abortion are beyond PT or PTA scope of practice, the HHS rule also enables providers to refuse to participate in "any part of a health service program” that is “contrary to his religious beliefs or moral convictions," which could include related care.

As members of HPA The Catalyst, we should take this opportunity to be reminded of our Section’s mission statement:

The mission of the HPA Section is to transform the culture of physical therapy through initiatives that enhance professionalism, leadership, management, and advocacy to foster excellence in autonomous practice for the benefit of members and society.

It is imperative that we do not choose our patients/clients based on religion, creed, color, sex or sexual identification and provide the highest level of care possible to everyone, aligning with APTA’s mission: “Transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.”

Thank you,

Matthew Mesibov, PT, GCS
HPA The Catalyst 
Pronouns: He, His, Him

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