Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Oh, Woe is my Poor Conscience

Okay, abortion is a contentious subject. I get that.

Not all doctors are going to be willing to provide that service. I get that too.

Leaving patients twisting in the breeze because "your conscience won't allow you to participate"? That I don't get.

Consider the following:

The present regulations say doctors must ensure pregnant women are "offered access to information or assistance" to help them make informed decisions on their options, including possible termination.

Under the proposed changes, physicians must make sure patients who are considering terminating their pregnancies are offered access to information to make an informed decision as well as "access to available medical options."


Okay - in essence, that creates a practice obligation that if a doctor is not willing to participate, then they are obliged to provide an appropriate referral to someone who will.

This is not an unreasonable statement at all when one considers that our family physicians are most people's primary source of meaningful information and connection into our health care system.

Of course, for the "conscience crowd", this is too much pain:

"This (proposed) clause removes my ability to be a conscientious physician," said Dr. Joan Johnston, an Edmonton family physician who opposes abortion.


Speaking as someone who has had to access the medical system for reasons that some moralizing types would consider controversial, the doctor's comments are whining. Basically, what she's demanding is the right not just to be a non-participant, but to in fact be an obstacle to her patients accessing those services. This is morally and ethically reprehensible.

It is difficult enough to gain access to the correct services within the medical system without having physicians demanding that patients live under the physician's personal moral code. If you don't want to perform some procedure, that's just fine - but you need to provide your patients with access to the doctors who are willing to be involved. There is little more frustrating in life than to be facing a need for treatment, and to have various people closing the doors on you without at least having the grace to point one in the direction of someone who can be of assistance.

Yes, I'm sure that Dr. Johnston has very legitimate concerns about "not perpetrating evil" (or whatever her particular objections are). The fact is that she is not being obliged to do anything except ensure that her patients have access to the correct resources to make an informed decision, rather than just providing them with a closed door.

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