Choosing Trust, Preferences, & Putting Faith in Patients

Bob Abrahamson, Chief Marketing Officer

Group of women

The Dobbs decision reversing Roe v Wade and the subsequent bans on abortion procedures that are sweeping across the country can put health care providers in a precarious position. Yet, the principles of patient-centric care, shared decision making, and health equity demand that scientifically valid and safe information not be withheld. Where does one draw the line so that they stay on the right side of the law without sacrificing moral and ethical obligations to first do no harm. 

As noted in this article, Texas and Oklahoma have passed laws that include provisions allowing for citizens to sue anyone that helps a woman get an abortion. That is broad and vague. What constitutes help?  Does merely presenting the facts – a medically valid procedure – and introducing the option of receiving a legally safe abortion in another state equal help. I would imagine this would be protected speech but maybe not.  And if not, so what? If not legally wrong, it is certainly morally wrong to withhold this information and prohibit the patient from making an informed decision.

The court has taken an unprecedented step in using its authority to strip away rights from a large swath of the population. The healthcare community cannot take a similar step backwards in the direction of a paternalistic, provider-centric, doctor-patient relationship. While it is unfair to ask a provider to perform an illegal procedure, it is our obligation to make sure patients are informed of all their medically safe and scientifically approved options. And, how they can avail themselves of said options.

Take it a step further. Many large companies have announced they will cover travel benefits for employees that are seeking a procedure in a state where it is legal. That is certainly help. Whether those companies will be sued in states with more restrictive laws remains to be seen. Is it possible that a large multi-state, self-insured health system will be in a position where an employee from a state with an abortion ban will seek a procedure from a facility located in a state where it is legal? I can think of one large Texas based for-profit national hospital system where this could be an issue.

As you may be able to glean, the court’s decision has me troubled. Healthcare in the US is complicated enough without faith-based arguments taking precedence over science and invalidating personal choice. I have spent the better part of my career in the patient engagement space working to create solutions to improve patient/provider collaboration. The recent ruling is a slap in the face to a patient-centric health system.  

Down but not out, we need to continue to build the solutions that will drive care collaboration and better outcomes and experience for all stakeholders. Patient centricity demands access to information and resources empowering patients to make the best decisions in accordance with their values and preferences. I look forward to continuing this journey at all points across the care continuum and, as much as possible, helping people access the care they desire to lead their best lives.

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