Monday, March 23, 2009

For a real-life case example of Right of Conscience

Here is one story I read that falls exactly under the "right of conscience" issue: a lesbian couple sues a doctor who declined to inseminate one partner artificially because of her own religious convictions (to not inseminate unmarried women). The woman went to the doctor to whom she refered her, got pregnant, and then decided to sue the first doctor. San Diego courts, I'm glad to say, ruled in favor of the doctor. Remember, all of these "Right of Conscience" issues are over ELECTIVE medical procedures.

Just think of all the examples... a health care worker who asks not to be scheduled to hand out contraceptives to minors without parental consent, a fertility doctor who states up front that he or she will not perform "selective reduction" in the case of multiples, a family physician who will not end a patient's life on demand, a prison doctor who will not administer lethal injections, a nurse who will not assist at abortions, an adoption agency that will only refer to married couples (or to couples of a certain religious conviction, or to couples of only a certain level of health), a fertility doctor who "draws the line" at certain practices (IVF or donor sperm/egg, etc.), a mental health care worker who does not choose to use certain methods of treatment, surgeons who will not perform sex-change operations... Note that none of these in any way compromise the life of any party involved... unless you count not performing abortions or physician-assisted suicide as SAVING lives. I will also say that, were I a doctor/nurse, I wouldn't necessarily object to all of the situations I outlined above, but some people might, and they have every right to tell their patients that they aren't willing to do those things. That's called integrity.

There are also scores of POSITIVE examples when we do want medical personel who stand up for what they believe is right, especially in life-or-death situations-- think of a surgeon who insists on doing a risky procedure in order to save a life, a hospital administrator who refuses to let a person's income or race determine their eligibility for a transplant, a nurse who appears at a patient's bedside, day after day, with encouraging words and a smile no matter how the patient treats her, or a doctor who tells a patient's family words they do not want to hear in order to save or improve a loved one's life. Doctors take the Hippocratic oath, and we honor them when they hold to that, when they stand fast to their convictions. Why not the other way around-- why should we criminalize integrity?

1 comment:

Jacqui O. said...

Preach it, Christina! Thank you for bringing up the issue of Right of Conscience in your blog. It's something that too few people know about, especially those who are not in the healthcare field. Potential patients, loved ones, jurors, etc.--speak out! Let your voice be heard now, before it is too late.