Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, in an opinion requested by Sen. Keith Ingram, says medical providers can’t cite a “conscience” protection law to refuse to serve unvaccinated people.
Could the belief or principle that individuals should be vaccinated for coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) meet the definition of conscience under the Medical Ethics and Diversity Act Ark. Code Ann. 17-80-501 et seq.)? Q2) If a medical practitioner, such as a doctor, refused, based on his or her conscience, to see or treat a patient who has not been vaccinated for coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19), would the medical practitioner be protected under the Act for exercising his or her conscience? Q3) If a medical practitioner is not protected under the Act, would any other laws protect the medical practitioner for refusing to see or treat a patient who has not been vaccinated for coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19)?
RESPONSE: The first two questions focus on the term “conscience” and some characteristic of the patient. This fails to recognize that the protected “right of conscience” under the Medical Ethics and Diversity Act relates to a service that violates the practitioner’s conscience. It is unlikely that the belief that individuals should be vaccinated for COVID-19 meets the Act’s definition of “conscience.” But even if that were not the case, that belief alone would not be a sufficient basis for an objection under the Act because you have not identified any particular service that violates the belief. In sum, these questions miss the point of the Act. The answer to your second question is “no” because you have not identified any particular service that violates that belief or principle. In response to your third question, I am unaware of any such state laws.
I have heard of physicians unwilling to see vaccine resisters. An unasked question is whether service can be refused on other grounds, excepting protected classes of people (based on race, gender, religion and other reasons but not sexual orientation under Arkansas law.)