The American state of Florida has enacted new legislation that will allow doctors to refuse to treat patients because they are LGBTIQ+.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed bill SB 1580, dubbed the “License to Discriminate in Healthcare” bill and the “Let Them Die Act”, last week.
The terrifying law grants a healthcare provider “the right to opt out of participation in or payment for any health care service on the basis of a conscience-based objection.”
It provides legal protection to health care providers who deny a patient care based on their religious, moral, or ethical beliefs and offers them complete immunity from liability for doing so.
The law is applicable not only to doctors but also to ambulances, chemists, nurses, hospitals, and health insurance providers.
It’s believed that LGBTIQ+ people could be among those potentially most impacted by the legislation.
Under the law, healthcare providers are also not obligated to refer patients they reject to other services or providers that could be of assistance.
The law has been widely condemned by human rights organisations as deeply unethical.
“Religious beliefs are fundamental rights in our country. These core values have shaped our nation and strengthened our union,” said Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Unfortunately, bills like SB 1580 distort our foundational freedoms into tools to limit the rights of others, including the LGBTQ+ community and other vulnerable people.”
Warbelow added that “personal beliefs should not be wielded as a sword to deny critical medical care.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida described that bill as “shocking in its breadth, vagueness, and government overreach,” and noted that “The potential public health and private sector consequences of such a bill are wide-ranging and detrimental.”
This law is part of a broader trend across the United States to limit the rights of LGBTIQ+ people. Florida is among several states that have passed or are considering hundreds of bills to restrict these rights this year, most commonly impacting transgender Americans.
In a country where healthcare is already not affordable for many people, this law may leave those who are already marginalised without access to care.