Question to Senator Plale about AB 207, known as “The Patient Abandonment Bill”

(vetoed by the Governor)

Sections of our question that the Senator did not answer are rendered in RED. As the Senator’s answers are delivered we will publish them in full here.

Milwaukee Renaissance asks Senator Plale:

In the upcoming primary election for the Senate position you now hold (7th District, Wisconsin), I am sure you will want to present yourself as best you can as a member of the Democratic Party, and so I would like to ask you some questions to give you that opportunity. I trust it will not interfere with your campaign to answer these questions for this Bay View Matters list serve which, today, numbers 638. Email gives you unlimited space to expound on your views.

You told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last week that you are “in Madison … to work across the aisle. I take a pragmatic view of government. It should do the most good for the most people. I’m able to work with people in both parties.”

This is good news for those of us who hate the polarization that has been inflicted on our government by powerful forces that do not answer to us.

My first question, then, asks specifically about AB 207 which Democratic Party members widely named the Patient Abandonment Act because it allows a pharmacist to refuse to assist a patient when the patient requests something the violates the pharmacist’s conscience.

Is there not a better way to protect the conscience of a pharmacist than by laying the burden on the patient who may be too ill to fend for herself (himself)?

Some solutions that come to mind:

*Why does the State allow someone who objects to the use of drugs to enter the pharmacy field in the first place?

*Or, why not send a newly conscience-stricken pharmacist to job counseling by the State Division of Workforce Solutions (specifically the programs the State offers for displaced workers). Retraining could be a cooperative venture between the State and the many private firms who can use this educated person’s talents.

*Or, why not license churches to sell drugs to their parishioners so they could limit their inventory to the drugs that they consider moral?

*In fact, 12 Democrats voted against this bill; you and only one other voted in favor. What exactly does “working across the aisle” mean if you essentially end up voting for a bill that reflects no compromise with both parties?

Senator Plale:

Let me say very clearly, as I said at the Brady Street Forum, I have never, nor will I ever support any legislation that allows licensed pharmacists to obstruct a womans right to a legally prescribed contraceptive drug or device including emergency contraception. In my two legislative sessions in the Senate, this bill has repeatedly been introduced by Senator Reynolds. In the 2003–2004 legislative session Senators Reynolds and Panzer came into my office and asked for my support for this bill. They told me that if I promised my vote they would schedule the bill for a vote. I told them I would not and could not support the bill. As a result, the bill died in my Senate office. I will not support any such legislation in the future.

I will now address AB 207, which is an entirely separate piece of legislation. This legislation extends a protection afforded health care institutions down to individual health care practitioners. Under current law, a hospital or other medical facility can chose not to perform many medical procedures if it believes it violates the ethical/moral standards of the hospital. The facility can not be held liable in a court of law for the consequences of a decision not to participate in these procedures. However, individual professionals can still be held liable. For example, St. Marys Hospital — as an institution — cannot be sued for refusing to provide certain services. However, the Dr. supervising the patient within the hospital CAN be sued. I believe it is wrong to protect the employer and not the employee. This makes individual practitioners vulnerable to lawsuits even when the hospital is not. Moreover, there is an overlooked aspect of this legislation. There is a very strict exception for contraception. Under this bill, NO protection for the employee exists if they refuse to participate in the services related to contraception. The legislation defines contraception the same way as the rest of Wisconsin statutes. As I said, I would not have supported legislation that would have jeopardized access to contraceptive services.

Interview and Milwaukee Renaissance comments by Bill Sell.
We will add your comments to this discussion.
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Write to: Milwaukee Renaissance Comments

Milwaukee Renaissance observes that the incumbent did not answer several questions we asked, particularly those questions that suggest reasonable compromise and would generate a consensus bill.

Nor did he address the professional opinion of the Wisconsin Medical Society, while claiming he is protecting doctors.

A reading of AB 207 indicates that Planned Parenthood’s observation may be correct. The end result of this bill is that the best interest and health care needs of the patient are second to the personal beliefs of the health care provider, and the most vulnerable patients are abandoned during their greatest hour of need.

While the bill seems to narrowly require the pharmacist to deliver drugs and contraceptive devices, it allows medical workers the freedom to block most any other drug or procedure or common sense advice, e.g. refusing to direct the patient to another pharmacy. The patient’s rights are narrowly protected in AB 207 while the medical worker’s rights are broadly extended.

Incensed by Planned Parenthood’s criticism of his vote, Senator Plale mailed copies of AB 207 with “except for contraceptives” highlighted, but he does not address women’s concerns over broad protection of “conscience”: The bill protects “refusal based on religious or moral precepts” - which probably includes anything the conscience-stricken worker says it includes.

Litigation to resolve these matters is almost assured - hardly the way a state should license people to distribute legal products.

Senator Plale’s stated concern “This [current law] makes individual practitioners vulnerable to lawsuits” is misdirected because AB 207 could create a whole new class of legal actions, holding patient’s needs hostage to legal disputes about this bill itself. And so we asked the Senator why not get pharamacists into jobs where they can practice their religion without interfering with others? A question the Senator prefers to avoid - for now.

Wisconsin Medical Society dissents against AB 207

“Your Doctor. Your Health.”

October 6, 2005

Governor James E. Doyle
Office of the Governor 115 East - State Capitol
Madison, WI 53702

Dear Governor Doyle:

On behalf of more than 10,000 members statewide, the Wisconsin Medical Society asks for your veto of Assembly Bill 207, the so-called “conscience clause” legislation. The bill would condone a pharmacist’s interference with the physician-patient relationship by refusing to fill a necessary and legal prescription.

The physician-patient relationship is a fundamental tenet of our medical care system. Society policy reflects that bedrock ideal in the area of prescriptions:

ETH-038 Legitimate Medical Orders or Valid Prescriptions: The Wisconsin Medical Society believes that non-physician clinicians/pharmacists should not be able to ignore legitimate medical orders or valid prescriptions written by physicians. Non-physician clinicians/pharmacists who find this morally objectionable should provide patients with information on where these orders or prescriptions can be filled. (House of Delegates, April 2004)

Simply put, the Society believes a pharmacist should not hold blanket “veto power” over a legitimate, physician-provided prescription; at the very least, a pharmacist objecting on moral or religious grounds should refer the patient to a person or facility where the prescription can be filled. This would put the pharmacist on procedural ground similar to physicians who object to complying with a patient’s advance directive: that physician duty (in Wis. Stat. sec. 154.07(1)(a)(3)) requires a good faith attempt to transfer the patient to another physician who will comply with the declaration. A similar requirement for pharmacists would enable patients to receive appropriate medication from other pharmacists in a timely manner; unfortunately, AB 207 does not include such a requirement.

The Legislature’s efforts this session on AB 207 are an improvement over last session’s bill, as AB 207 does not interfere with a physician’s duty to respect a patient’s advance directive. However, the provision granting pharmacists immunity from interfering with a valid prescription is, to the Society, a fatal flaw.

Thank you for considering our request that you veto Assembly Bill 207. Please feel free to get in touch should you have any questions concerning this or other subjects related to patient care.


Susan L. Turney, MD, MS, ACMP Executive Vice President/CEO

330 East Lakeside Street PO Box 1109 Madison, WI 53701–1109

Last edited by bs.   Page last modified on August 25, 2006

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