Patient concerns trump religious preferences in hospital flu dispute

Hospitals take the flu shot seriously. As should these people, but they don’t.

Eight hospital employees oppose mandatory flu shots, get fired

Joyce Gingerich, an oncology nurse at IU Health Goshen Hospital, had two options — get a flu shot or lose her job.

It was a tough choice, but Gingerich and seven others at the hospital stood their ground and refused to receive the vaccination. Their last day of work was Tuesday.

“I knew that I could not compromise my personal belief system for a job,” explained Gingerich

The hospital requires staff, physicians, volunteers and vendors have flu shots unless they get a medical or religious exemption. A lawyer fought for their right to religious exemption but it was denied by the hospital and they were fired for their denial of the vaccine.

Gingerich does not discount the hospital’s position of wanting to protect patients from illness, but she said the flu vaccination is not right for her.

“We all have different faith walks,” said Gingerich, who describes herself as a nondenominational Christian. “I feel like in my personal faith walk, I have felt instructed not to get a flu vaccination, but it’s also the whole matter of the right to choose what I put in my body and what I feel God wants me to put in versus someone mandating what I put in. It is a very big issue for me.”

She puts religious freedom above patient care. Another nurse who refuses says her decision to refuse was God-led and she advocates natural healing. Both these women are in the wrong profession because it’s not about them or what they think, it’s about what works regardless if they like it or not. The same applies to pharmacists who refuse to administer certain medication because of their beliefs. It’s NOT YOUR CHOICE. I would personally be afraid to be treated by someone who has this sort of mindset and misunderstands vaccinations. It’s unscientific, it’s dangerous and it infringes on the patients rights not to be put into unnecessary harm.

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  7 comments for “Patient concerns trump religious preferences in hospital flu dispute

  1. January 4, 2013 at 9:46 AM

    I’m a little confused — the article says they could get a “medical or religious exemption,” and two of the women quoted talk about wanting out for religious reasons. So why didn’t/couldn’t they get a religions exemption? Mind you, I’m not saying they SHOULD have, I’m just a bit confused about the situation.

    Indeed, there is no way I would want to be treated by a nurse who “advocates natural healing” because she was “God-led”!

    • January 4, 2013 at 9:59 AM

      I’m thinking it’s because there is nothing in the Bible or church teachings that forbid vaccinations.

      • January 4, 2013 at 10:07 AM

        Ah, okay. I guess that sort of makes sense — even a religious exemption has to have some “religion” to back it up, not just “My beliefs say I should be exempt.” Though, of course, that puts the hospital in the position of judging whose religion is “real” and whose isn’t, which brings up a whole new round of potential problems for them…

    • One Eyed Jack
      January 4, 2013 at 2:23 PM

      Medical exemptions require proof of a prior standing church doctrine of opposition to vaccination. Simply stating that your decisions is “God -led” or a personal belief is not sufficient. As Sharon said, these people have it backwards. It’s not about their personal or religious freedom. It’s about patient safety.

      One of the primary battles that hospitals fight is preventing nosocomial infections (infections patients get during their hospital stay). Administering patient care and refusing to take prophylactic measures like vaccinations is irresponsible and selfish.

      Incidentally. I was born in that hospital. This is a highly religious community with deep Mennonite and Amish roots.. I was pleasantly surprised by the position taken by the hospital. The patient MUST come first.

  2. January 4, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    I think the key here for Gingerich at least lies in her own comments: “I feel like in my personal faith walk, I have felt instructed not to get a flu vaccination” Note that she does not say that it is a tenet of her faith, that her church teaches it, or even that she had a vision wherein it was revealed to her that she should not get a vaccination.
    At that point, it is simply to easy to say ‘i have religious reasons not to’ and hope that flies. It might be interesting to see if this conviction extends to all vaccinations (has she had ANY since becoming a non-denominational Christian adult), or is it just that she doesn’t feel like this is one she should get?

  3. Rand
    January 4, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    I am curious, what would the medical exemptions be? And wouldn’t the medical conditions which make vaccinations dangerous for them also make working in a hospital where they are constantly exposed to infectious agents also put them at risk?

    • January 4, 2013 at 3:40 PM

      Allergic to eggs. The same protein is in the vaccine.

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