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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Doctors Told Medicine Trumps Personal Morals

An interesting situation is developing in Ontario, Canada. A new draft proposal of guidelines from the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Ontario, a regulating body, would prevent doctors from being able to opt out of treatments and procedures that go against their religious or moral conscience. As of now, Ontario physicians are able to refuse things like prescribing birth control or the morning-after pill, performing abortions, or helping same-sex couples conceive if it goes against their personal beliefs. Under the new guidelines, that would stop, and doctors who refused such treatments because of their moral convictions would face disciplinary action.
According to Canada's National Post, the college's draft says that a "physician's responsibility is to place the needs of the patient first, [so] there will be times when it may be necessary for physicians to set aside their personal beliefs in order to ensure that patients or potential patients are provided with the medical services they require." It also states that physicians "should be aware that decisions to restrict medical services offered ... or to end physician-patient relationships that are based on moral or religious belief may contravene the Code and/or constitute professional misconduct."
Many, like Lorne Gunter, who wrote the newspaper's editorial on the subject, think the proposal is biased against religious believers and violates physicians rights while trying to protect the rights of others. The CPSO, he writes, is "placing the rights of women and gays ahead of those of doctors and people of faith, whether they are Jews, Muslims, Christians or others." —Heather Wax