Kris Weberg | April 22, 2004
The Michigan House of Representatives has passed a new law that "allows health care workers to refuse service to anyone on moral, ethical or religious grounds." The bill is designed to allow doctors to refuse treatment to gays, and to legally refuse to provide certain medical services like abortions.

Even if you oppose abortion or gay rights, though, I think the potential for broad abuse inherent in this law should be obvious. Imagine being refused medical treatment because you're an atheist, or a Muslim, or just the wrong denomination of Christian. Imagine a doctor refusing to treat you because you support or oppose the war in Iraq, and they think your position is immoral. Imagine a doctor refusing to treat a single mother or her kids because they aren't raising their child the "correct" way. Under this bill, all of that would be quite possible, and the doctors in question immune to legal action.

These sorts of bills are pretty popular until after the fact, when people start to realize they can be used to target just about anyone. Let's hope the Michigan Senate is a little saner than the House.

Scott Hardie | April 22, 2004
"I will not permit considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, or social standing to intervene between my duty and my patient." -Hippocratic Oath

Erik Bates | April 22, 2004
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Melissa Erin | April 22, 2004
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Anna Gregoline | April 22, 2004
I understand abortion is a sticky subject, and it's not quite the same thing, but upon reading that, I thought, "I have no problem with people who don't want to treat Muslims (or insert ethnic group here). They should just go where there are no Muslims." Is this ok? I mean, I guess you can't tell people how to think, the least of which doctors. I don't know where I'm going with this, it's just what popped into my head.

But yeah, totally heartless, and against the hippocratic oath. Reminds me of that pharmacist who refused to give the morning-after pill to a woman who was prescribed it, because it clashed with his beliefs. Not his call to make. It was even a worse story because the woman had been raped, she wasn't just some careless person who forgot birth control.

Melissa Erin | April 22, 2004
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Erik Bates | April 22, 2004
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Kris Weberg | April 22, 2004
Actually, the law itself forbids revocation of a doctor's license for exercising the rights enumerated within it. Strangely, it also forbids doctors from invoking it for the purposes fo refusing birth control to patients.

As such, it seems clearly designed to allow discrimination against gays. However you feel about that, though, it opens the door to lots of forms of discrimination.

Melissa Erin | April 22, 2004
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Jackie Mason | April 22, 2004
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Scott Hardie | April 23, 2004
The bill excludes emergency treatment, so ER doctors and EMTs still have to treat everyone in need.

I find it curious that the Hippocratic Oath excludes religion from the list I quoted, especially since the modern version was established just after WWII, in which Nazi doctors found nothing wrong with torturing Jews for medical "experiments."

Kris Weberg | April 23, 2004
Of course,t he Hippocratic Oath also reminds doctors to treat their patients as people, not just as walking conditions (or, one presumes, cash cows). I found a few places featuring doctors talking about the Oath, and the consensus is that few graduating med school students of the last 15 years see it as much more than an annoying, perhaps obsolete formality before they start making the money.

Jackie Mason | April 23, 2004
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Anna Gregoline | April 23, 2004
I'd like someone to point to a real factual account of a doctor being "forced" to do an abortion. It just doesn't happen. I'm sure that something has occured where an ER doctor has had to perform one for emergency services, but that's in a "Save the Mother" type of exception, which some Anti-Abortionists allow.

Melissa Erin | April 23, 2004
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Anna Gregoline | April 23, 2004
Yes, I think that is the case. There are plenty of hospitals out there that don't perform abortions, and doctors can choose to work there if they want. But I can't see many situations ever arising where a doctor would be FORCED to perform an abortion. If an emergency abortion was needed, I'm sure if one doctor objected, another at the hopsital could do it. But if a hospital did do abortions, they would have more than one doctor who did them regulary, I'm sure. Most abortions are performed by doctors who have done it before, certainly, and many of them specialize in it, since so many anti-abortion groups are pressuring doctors to stop doing it. Therefore, the few that do it have their schedules filled up with women requesting the procedure.

I'm just tired of hearing this, as I've heard it many times before and now again with the discussion of this bill - I'd just like to hear one factual case of a doctor being forced to perform an abortion.

Melissa Erin | April 23, 2004
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Steve Dunn | April 23, 2004
Until the past 20-30 years, the Hippocratic Oath contained explicit prohibitions of abortion and assisted suicide.

Steve Dunn | April 23, 2004
Following up to myself, here are a couple translations of the Hippocratic Oath.

Quote: I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy.

Anna Gregoline | April 23, 2004
I read that too - so I can see that some older doctors would be particularly opposed to performing abortions. But the same arguments we put forth apply. And it's not against the law, so it's in the job description of duties a doctor might perform.

Jackie Mason | April 23, 2004
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Kris Weberg | April 24, 2004
There is a more modern version of the Hippocratic Oath, one that excludes prohibitions against abortion, not to mention the original version's invocation of Greek gods and ignorance of the latter-day notion of palliative care.

It begins: "I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug."

It was written in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, interestingly, well before the legalization of abortion.

Anna Gregoline | September 20, 2004
This topic is relevant again. I thought I'd add the link in this thread instead of starting another.

Melissa Erin | September 20, 2004
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Anna Gregoline | September 20, 2004
If it's part of the job description they agreed to, then yes, I think they should have to. Or quit, or join an organization that does not perform abortions. Abortion is legal, after all. A patient is within their rights to request the procedure and expect that it will be performed with the basic discretion, etc. afforded to any other procedure.

This idea lends itself to all sorts of other problems if it became legislation. Someone who hates Blacks or Jews or any minority could say that they felt a moral obligation not to treat them, as they are hoping all of them die horrible deaths. Same with any other sort of prejudice. Since we can't dictate what people's moral objections might be, we can't legislate that they can discriminate over other people's medical rights because they feel they don't deserve medical treatment. It would be a scary world if this goes to pass.

Of course, I realize I'm now just reiterating the previous posts in this thread, so ho hum, same old arguments. Sorry!

Melissa Erin | September 20, 2004
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Anna Gregoline | September 20, 2004
At the very least, clinics and pharmacies and whatnot should notify people if they don't perform procedures or give certain drugs. What I worry about if this sort of thing is allowed en masse is that people in certain bible belt areas might not be able to travel to a place that would perform an abortion for them. It's already difficult in many areas for women to be able to get an abortion, and they are often heckled or fearing for their own lives as well, with all the bombings and protesting of abortion clinics. For a legal procedure, this is just abhorent to me.

Melissa Erin | September 20, 2004
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Jackie Mason | September 20, 2004
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Kris Weberg | September 20, 2004
I agree with Jackie -- the disturbing part of these "conscience clauses" is not the right to refuse certain treatments, but the right to refuse referral to doctors or facilities that will provide such services.

In other words, not only can you be refused abortons, birth control, or treatment if you're gay; you won't even get information about alternate providers. In small communities, this is essentially a ban on treatment options that are not made available on a local level.

Of course, that suggests to me that a federal court could reject these laws once a suitable challenge is made; or even that, were Congress less socially conservative at present, the Commerce Clause of the Constitution might be invoked, as it was for the 1964 and '68 Civil Rights Acts.

This is quite a bad law.

Scott Hardie | September 22, 2004
Agreed. It's all about the referrals. Every doctor except ER residents should have the freedom to refuse to perform abortions (we're not a fascist state), but they must at least provide some avenue for the patient to seek help elsewhere. Otherwise, one person's choice becomes another person's doom, and avoiding that scenario is the whole purpose of this law.


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