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Do doctors have the right to refuse patients?

Do doctors have the right to refuse patients?

Joan Chand’oiseau, a 45 year old mother of three was shocked to find out that the doctor on duty at a Calgary walk-in clinic did not prescribe the birth control pill.

Kate Desjardins, a 25-year-old from Ottawa entered a walk-in clinic earlier this year to have her birth control prescription renewed. Except this was not a routine visit, as Ms. Desjardins quickly found out that the doctor on duty did not prescribe contraceptives.

These two experiences have resulted in a renewed debate over conscience protection for doctors.

Dr. Margaret Somerville, Director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law debates Arthur Schafer, director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba on the question, “Should doctors have the right to refuse to prescribe birth control because of their religious beliefs?”  The question should really be, “Should patients have the right to a medical procedure from any physician of their choosing?”

Anyway, Dr. Somerville does a remarkable job at focusing the debate and responds very well to Mr. Schafer in the radio debate. Here is one statement,

“We have a right to freedom of conscience and freedom of belief, and for a physician who believes that contraception is unethical and not morally acceptable, and possibly has religious beliefs or those beliefs might be grounded in his religion or they might not be, than if he prescribes contraceptions than he’s complicit in the action he believes is unethical and immoral.”

You can listen to the thirteen minute interview here.

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