In the case concerned, UMDNJ unlawfully put pressure on 12 nurses to participate in abortions or threatening them with dire consequences of termination of employment if the nurses object to take part in the abortion procedures, and when they filed a lawsuit and got a restraining order on the hospital against such forceful participation, the hospital called them to a meeting for discussing possible changes or transfers. However, the New Jersey Court has rejected the request of the nurses to put a restraining order on the hospital in this regard, thereby allowing the hospital to call the nurses to a meeting for reassignments. According to the nurses, the hospital may plan to transfer the nurses to other units in retaliation to the lawsuit they filed against the hospital earlier on the issue of forceful abortion participation. Before determining whether the nurses were justified in taking action against the hospital or not and in what way the hospital violated the law, we may need to take a look at the nursing laws and regulations that are in place.
As per the Public Health Service Act, hospitals or individuals, who are the recipients of federal funds in various health programs, must not coerce their employees into participating in abortion and sterilization procedures, if the employees object to take part in such procedures on moral and religious grounds. The Public Health Service Act also prohibits discriminatory practices arising out of such situation (USCCB, 2014). The employer cannot give promotions or give other privileges or terminate an employee because he or she has participated or refused to participate in the abortion or sterilization procedures. Since UMDNJ receives approximately $60 million dollars from federal funds annually, it committed an unlawful act by pressurizing the nurses to take part in abortion procedures, and threatening them with termination if they did not comply, and therefore, the court was justified in its issuance of a restraining order to the hospital in prevention of putting such pressure on the nurses.
As per the Nursing Practice Act, a person cannot suspend, terminate, discriminate against, discipline or retaliate against a nurse who refuses to participate in an activity (TBN, 2011). As per the rules and regulations of employer-employee relations, the employee has the right to remain free from interference, intimidation, coercion, restraint, discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, age, or physical or mental impairment or retaliation on the part of his supervisor, department head, other employees of the organization with respect to any lawful activity associated therewith which is within the scope of representation (DHR, 2013). Taking these laws into view, it is unlawful if the hospital is planning to reassign the nurses to other units in retaliation to their lawsuit against the hospital.
The ‘Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements’ provides a framework to help the nurses in making decisions when they encounter an ethical dilemma. One of its provisions is that the nurse promotes, advocates for, and strives to protect the health, safety, and rights of the patient (Nursing World, 2010). The 12 nurses, who refused to take participation in the abortion procedures, believe in pro-life choices, and therefore, besides religious reasons, their decision was based on the moral ground that abortion would not only kill unborn child but might also cause physiological pain and stress to the mother. Their action was made in the best interest of the patient and in favor of the beliefs they hold on to.
Privacy is the basic human right. Especially, privacy in the matter of medical information and health history is of paramount importance because of the consequences involved in the case of disclosure. Breaches of privacy and confidentiality in the matter of health records not only violate the basic human right, but also cause harm. The harm can be both intrinsic because of the medical information, which someone wants to keep secret, gets disclosed to others. The harm can also be economic when due to the disclosure of the confidential medical information, the person whose information has been accessed may lose job, health insurance and even housing (NAS, 2009). They can also face social and psychological harm. For instance, if a person suffers from a sexually transmitted disease like HIV or genital herpes, he or she may social exclusion and potentially harmful results. Besides, the breach of confidentiality may pose a threat of identity theft. Because of these reasons, it is very important to use information technology in a manner that safeguards the confidentiality of patients.
In the USA, medical privacy is a major concern for Americans because medical records may include some of the most intimate details about a person, his physical and mental health, and information on personal relationships, social behaviors and financial status. Despite the implementation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule, it has been seen that 80% of the American population are concerned about the privacy of their medical records (Hirsch, 2011). The vulnerability of information technology is widespread. The security breaches associated with hacking, insider fraud, virus or worm infecting the system of the organization and inadvertent leakage of consumer data are rampant these days. In such scenario, the question as regards how full-proof the Electronic Health Records or Electronic Medical Records are hovers the minds of many people. Just a year prior to the disclosure of George Clooney's disclosure of medical information, a survey was conducted in 2006, the result of which divulged that 50% of all security breaches are the outcome of an internal failure caused by the leakage of confidential information by the employee or employees of an organization or a virus attack (NAS, 2009).
Texas Board of Nursing (TBN) (2011). Nursing Practice Act, Nursing Peer Review Act, & Nurse Licensure Compact. Retrieved on 13th October 2014 from <https://www.bon.texas.gov/pdfs/publication_pdfs/npa2011.pdf>
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). (2014). Current Federal Laws Protecting Conscience Rights. Retrieved on 13th October 2014 from <http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Federal-Conscience-Laws.pdf>
Nursing World (2010). Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements. Retrieved on 13th October 2014 from <http://www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/EthicsStandards/CodeofEthicsforNurses/Code-of-Ethics.pdf>
National Academy of Sciences (NAS). (2009). The Value and Importance of Health Information Privacy. Retrieved on 13th October 2014 from <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK9579/>
Hirsch, M. D. (2011). 80% of Americans worry about EHR privacy. Retrieved on 13th October 2014 from <http://www.fierceemr.com/story/80-americans-concerned-about-ehr-privacy/2011-09-22>
Tobias, M.W. (2012). Kate Middleton's Medical Information: The Larger Issue. Forbes. Retrieved on 13th October 2014 from <http://www.forbes.com/sites/marcwebertobias/2012/12/13/kate-middletons-medical-information-the-larger-issue/>