Monday, July 17, 2006

Tension Sparks Between Religion & Patients' Rights

Imagine you went to the doctor for a perfectly legal drug or procedure, but medical professionals refused to serve you. It's happening across the country in what the Washington Post calls, "an intense, complex and often bitter debate over religious freedom vs. patients' rights." In a Post report, they cite the following skirmishes in this escalating conflict:

  • "In Chicago, an ambulance driver refused to transport a patient for an abortion."
  • "In California, fertility specialists rebuffed a gay woman seeking artificial insemination."
  • "In Texas, a pharmacist turned away a rape victim seeking the morning-after pill."

According to the Post, these episodes are driven by "medicine's push into controversial new areas," combined with "religious expression and its political prominence in the United States."

This concerns me. When I go to the doctor, I want every legal drug and procedure available to me to be, well, available. At the same time, I can empathize with health workers who do not want to be forced to make decisions that violate their religious values.

So, to these health care workers, may I suggest something? Quit. Find another job.

Apparently, there are a few that are doing just that. "Some health-care workers avoid or transfer out of jobs that present moral quandaries," reports the Post.

When I read this story, a quote from the new Iraq War documentary came to mind. It was a line by Army reservist Sergeant Zack Bazzi, "I love being a soldier -- the only thing about the army is, you can't pick your war." Nope, you just fight. It's your job. Healthcare workers have a job, too. And they need to do it.

As one bioethecist and lawyer told the Washington Post, "You are not supposed to use your professional status as a vehicle for cultural conquest."


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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.