Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Doctors and the right of freedom of conscience

John Carpay and a doctor's right to follow his or her conscience in treating or not treating patients:
"...If a doctor, based on her experience and research, believes that liberation therapy (dilating and opening blocked neck veins) is not a good option for patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, must she provide that therapy simply because the patient demands it? 
What about a doctor who is convinced that anti-cholesterol pills do more harm than good? What if a doctor refuses to prescribe birth control pills because she believes, apart from any religious teaching, that they compromise women’s health? Should this physician disregard her own research, analysis and conclusions and prescribe what she considers to be a dangerous product? 
Does it really matter whether the doctor’s belief is characterized as scientific, religious, metaphysical, conscientious, or something else? 
Certainly a doctor’s beliefs about what is, or is not, good medicine will sometimes inconvenience a patient. But what would be the consequences of forcing doctors to abandon their professional judgment and violate their conscience in order to pander to patients’ wishes? If the government compels doctors to supply whatever patients demand, this presupposes that a patient’s knowledge, training and judgment is at least equal to that of the doctor’s. And if so, why bother with a medical profession in the first place? If individual doctors don’t have the right to reach their own conclusions as to what is good or bad, why bother to distinguish doctors from those who are not doctors? 
These same questions apply to other professions and occupations. Would Jim Prentice (who is a lawyer) impose this same standard on lawyers who refuse to act for a client, or who decline to take a particular case, because the lawyer’s conscience says that doing so would be wrong? Our legal system is as public as the medical system. Why not remove from lawyers their current right to refuse to advance a cause that the lawyer believes to be unjust? Should lawyers be permitted to inconvenience prospective clients by telling them to find another lawyer? Shouldn’t clients be entitled to receive from a particular lawyer whatever services they demand?...
...If Jim Prentice respects the freedom of lawyers to decline cases and clients, he should support the right of doctors — and everyone else — to do likewise. That would be consistent with the free society of which Albertans are rightfully proud."

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