There’s a brouhaha in-the-works about whether physicians can refuse treating patients if the treatment goes against the doctor’s moral or religious beliefs. There are already small rural communities with only one medical practice or clinic that won’t perform abortions because of moral or religious beliefs. But now that has escalated to refusing birth control in some parts of Canada. In Ottawa, Ontario, three physicians circulated a letter saying that they won’t prescribe birth control. A medical clinic in Calgary, Alberta just posted a sign on their door to that effect. Read the Globe and Mail article at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/do-doctors-have-right-to-refuse-to-treat/article19383553/
What happened to treating the patient for what is best for the patient? Based on what is available for treatment and what is legal in that category. But religious and moral values being imposed on patients by their doctor(s)? Last time I checked, birth control (and even abortion) is legal in Canada. Whether you are for or against abortion, doesn’t it make sense to prescribe birth control to avoid a situation that may bring on an abortion?
Don’t they teach “common sense” at “doctor school?” More important whatever happened to the physician motto “do no harm.” I’m not saying that physicians should automatically prescribe the birth control pill without considering the patient’s overall health. If the patient has high blood pressure obviously the pill might have to be avoided. But there are other birth control methods.
For the most part physicians (unless they are obstinate) consider several options when a patient comes in with symptoms and gets a diagnosis. He or she would discuss these with the patient and suggest what would work best for the patient. Sometimes there is only one option for treatment but that should also be presented to the patient.
The patient’s health and concerns should be the doctor’s focus, not the doctor’s religious values.
Let’s take this scenario further.
What if the police refused to investigate a murder because the victim had different religious beliefs than the police officer?
What if a retailer refused to serve a customer because the retailer was a very religious Christian and the customer was a known atheist?
What if the federal tax department suddenly decided that you had to be Christian to file your income taxes?
I know – these are silly and stupid scenarios. But what about the physicians’ sudden rise in the attitude that their religious morals and beliefs trump their patients’ health? That is being not only stupid but going against the grain of the law.
And speaking of laws, the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons is revisiting this issue with their regular policy review and update. They are even welcoming public input until August 5. The last policy review in 2008 ran into this issue but the OCPS backed down on stating doctors should park their beliefs at the door because – are you ready for it? – doctors raised a big stink about the issue.
And doctors wonder why some people think they act like they are God.
For the record I am not referring to all doctors here. Some are good and have the patient’s interest and health as their first concern. It’s this other bunch who seem to have tunnel vision when it comes to their religious beliefs and imposing them on others. Maybe this latter group are in the wrong profession. Maybe they should switch to some religious ministry.
What do you say about this? Have any of you ever encountered a doctor refusing you any treatment because of the doctor’s religious beliefs? And if you are a doctor reading this post, what are your views here? Do you treat your patients based on your religious beliefs or based on what is best for your patients?
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes