Tuesday, April 17, 2007

not the church, not the state - doctors, apparently, have the right to choose our fate

[Following yesterday's post, Polly Toynbee has an excellent piece on single parent families here]

The Royal College of Obsetricians and Gynocologists has warned that Britain is facing a shortage of doctors willing to perform abortions. Note that the looming abortion crisis isn't because of changes in the law, or because of increased campaigning from the pseudo-morality peddlers who hang around outside clinics with their photoshopped foetuses and dubious scientific facts. It's because some doctors feel that their personal opinions should stop them doing their job. The buzzword being bandied about the press this week is "the dinner party test" - would you talk about being an abortion provider in a social context? Yes, that's right - people with power over our bodies are dictating what operations we can or cannot undergo based on what the neighbours might think. Forgive me if I'm not overwhelmed with confidence in the principles of the British medical profession. Libby Purves, in what is otherwise a pretty offensive piece, points out that "[i]f there is to be a shortage of abortionists there will be ever longer waiting lists, thus ever more late abortions". This is a can of worms we do not need to open.

In The Independent, one doctor is quoted as saying "I had made my mind up on abortion before entering the medical profession. I am a Roman Catholic and my religious beliefs do form my moral point of view." Well maybe - just maybe, Dr Gerrard - you should have chosen another damn job. Being a doctor doesn't always mean making the comfortable decisions, or the decisions that you'd make for yourself. It doesn't mean imposing your beliefs on other people. He then goes on to say "I think people understand it is a personal choice and respect that." What a pity he can't offer the same courtesy. Bear in mind, he's a GP - he isn't going to be performing the procedure himself, merely referring the woman in question to a hospital where the decision will be taken out of his hands. He does say that he would ask her to speak to another doctor - but out of the six GPs working at his practice, only three of them are pro-choice. I'm guessing he won't be telling her which ones.

The issue here is a tricky one, because the inevitable cry of 'it's discriminating against Christians' will be heard. Honestly? I don't care. I'm not asking my doctors (or my nurses, teachers, politicians) to check their personality at the door, but I don't want their personal superstitions interfering with my life. Because of cuts in junior doctor's hours, their training is no longer comprehensive and increasingly few are choosing to experience a the thankless and unpopular world. I don't want my doctor judging me, but it seems that this is exactly what a lot of them are doing - there is a sense that they are tidying up the mess made by selfish, irresponsible, promiscuous women. Newsflash - contraception doesn't always work.

Personally speaking, if someone I met told me they were involved in the practical side of abortion rights, I'd buy them a drink.


Abortion Rights UK are calling for abortion to be included on the medical student core curriculum. Find out more here.

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13 Comments:

At 3:36 PM, Blogger A said...

w00t first to comment.

Anyway, another well written post, and another interesting topic. Personally I can understand a surgeon not wanting to perform the actual abortion if it is against his beliefs. If he believes the fetus is alive it would be against his hippocratic oath (or whatever the English equivalent might be) to perform the surgery. I do howeve it is not the GP's place to refuse to referr a patient. If the law says it is alright the GP should have to follow through with a referral. And as for the promiscuis comment, well that is just blatant sexism, simply because if a woman makes a mistake, or contraception screws up, it is made obvious for a women through pregnancy where men need never even know. Not to mention that it isn't the GP's right to decide how to treat a patient based on his evaluation of their behaviour, based on a moral code they may not agree with.

 
At 3:44 PM, Blogger Kaite said...

The Hippocratic Oath was drawn up in Ancient Greece, I wish people would bear that in mind when they refer to it so slavishly...

Yes, the thing people seem to forget is that when women are being 'selfish' or 'careless', the men do have a say in it...

 
At 2:41 PM, Blogger bookblob said...

I would like to second your offer to buy a drink to abortion providers. I think they should be proud of the work they do because it takes bravery and compassion to put your reputation at risk (at least if you're friends with a lot of Daily Mail readers).

 
At 5:32 PM, Blogger Marcin said...

Why should someone avoid a profession in which people ask them to do things that they find morally repugnant? How is it different from saying that muslims should not enter securities issuance practice as a solicitor or accountant, if they only intend to be involved in islamically compliant deals?

 
At 7:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real reason there is a shortage of providers is nothing to do with doctors choosing not to do the procedure. The shortage has arisen as a result of government policy moving abortions to independent clinics rather than NHS hospitals. Independent clinics do not have junior doctors which means that trainees are not learning to do them.
Yes, as a doctor you have the right to refuse to do a procedure you find morally repugnant (not my stance btw but one I can understand) but the real problem here is the DOH again supporting a calculated plan to privatise the NHS. There are plenty of junior doctors within the NHS who would be willing to learn to do and to then perform abortions but if the training isn't available then the number of providers will fall. Thank you again Patsy Hewitt.

 
At 8:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh and I nearly forgot.
When I was a medical student I worked for a Roman Catholic GP who felt unable to refer women for abortions. He arranged urgent appointments for them with his partner who felt differently.
A doctor feeling that they cannot do something does not stop them prioritising their patient's needs and to suggest otherwise is deeply offensive. Perhaps before saying "I'm guessing he won't be telling her which ones" maybe you should check your facts.

 
At 8:30 PM, Blogger Kaite said...

That's fantastic, but he was in no way obliged to do so and a lot of doctors wouldn't have in that situation. It might be deeply offensive but it's also right, and friends of mine can testify to that.

the DOH again supporting a calculated plan to privatise the NHS

I don't believe that for a second - I think a lot of hard work has gone into rebuilding the NHS after the Thatcher & Major years. It isn't perfect, but that's why Hewitt et al are working towards improving it.

 
At 10:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's see if you'll censor this post? A liberal censoring posts! What a joke!

Anyway, I am pro-choice. I'm also an O&G doctor. But I don't do social terminations because it is boring, unpleasant and thankless work. There are also too many abortions, and many of them are for trivial reasons. Even level headed intelligent women behave fecklessly. And you know what, if abortions were harder to obtain, women would take contraception more seriously. Many don't. Yes it fails sometimes, but this is commonly becuase of lack of responsibility.

Women have no "right" to have an abortion. It's a privilege allowed by some societies and the doctors willing to participate, and abuse of the service will lead to it's loss eventually unless socks are pulled up.

So there you go, it's not black and white. Abuse of a service which is very important for some women means that service is cut back. Use it responsibly or lose it.

 
At 10:15 PM, Blogger Kaite said...

Lots of jobs have their tedious aspects. That doesn't mean you don't do them. And what may be tedious to you is life-changing to your patient. I don't think any woman should go through a pregnancy if she doesn't want to - the reasons why and the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy are none of your business. You don't get to define what a 'trivial' reason for seeking a termination is.

And you know what? Maybe if men got pregnant, they'd take contraception more seriously.

For the record, I'm not 'censoring posts'. I deleted a comment that had more to do with bashing the Government than contributing to debate.

 
At 1:44 PM, Anonymous lism. said...

I think that using the word "tedious" to describe a procedure which, if denied, will have incredible emotional and financial impact on the life of a woman is disgusting. Yes, some women are irresponsible. Some men are more so. Even if the anonymous commenter above has all of the facts, in every case, who is he/she to make that judgement?

I don't think we can call ourselves a free society if we DON'T allow conscientious objection, but doctors should be under a moral and professional obligation to refer patients on to somebody who will advise on the best course of action free of a religious or conscientious belief that the woman seeking treatment may not share. I don't believe in easy access to abortion or access to abortion without proper psychological counselling in the aftermath of the procedure, but it is necessary to strike a balance between ensuring vulnerable women are protected in this respect and doing all in our power to reduce the number of dangerous late-term abortions.

Full disclosure: I am personally against abortion, but it is - and should be - the prerogative of the individual. Abortion is still, on paper, illegal in this country unless very specific conditions are met - something which does not translate to the reality. I think that's a law which is in urgent need of rewriting. Whether it will ever happen in this political climate is a whole other issue.

 
At 8:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You must've deleted a few posts cos you've deleted two of mine and you must've removed at least one of that O&G docs as well. Hypocrite.
Read this and see if you still feel so jolly about Hewitt.
http://www.ypn.co.uk/opinion?ArticleID=2721958

 
At 7:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Breast Cancer research uk
Common Breast Cancer Myths

The first myth pertaining to this disease is that it only affects women.

Second myth that is associated with this disease is that if one has found a lump during an examination, it is cancer.

Third is that it is solely hereditary

The next myth associated with breast cancer is downright ridiculous. Would you believe, that in this day and age, some individuals still think that breast cancer is contagious?

Conversely, some individuals foolishly believe that breast size determines whether or not one gets cancer.

Finally, another myth that is associated with this disease is that it only affects older people. This is not so. Although the chance of getting breast cancer increases with age, women as young as 18 have been diagnosed with the disease.

You can find a number of helpful informative articles on Breast Cancer research uk at breast-cancer1.com

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At 7:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Breast Cancer research uk
Common Breast Cancer Myths

The first myth pertaining to this disease is that it only affects women.

Second myth that is associated with this disease is that if one has found a lump during an examination, it is cancer.

Third is that it is solely hereditary

The next myth associated with breast cancer is downright ridiculous. Would you believe, that in this day and age, some individuals still think that breast cancer is contagious?

Conversely, some individuals foolishly believe that breast size determines whether or not one gets cancer.

Finally, another myth that is associated with this disease is that it only affects older people. This is not so. Although the chance of getting breast cancer increases with age, women as young as 18 have been diagnosed with the disease.

You can find a number of helpful informative articles on Breast Cancer research uk at breast-cancer1.com

Breast Cancer research uk

 

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