Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Doctors Dissed...

California Supreme Court Limits Religious Liberty of Physicians
SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 18- In a 7-0 decision, the California Supreme Court restricted the religious liberty of physicians' to respect his or her conscience when deciding whether to perform a particular medical procedure.

San Diego physicians Christine Brody, M.D., and Douglas Fenton, M.D., asserted a Constitutional defense, based on their religious liberty, to a lawsuit that was brought by an unmarried female patient over six years ago. The patient, Guadalupe Benitez, claimed the two Ob/GYNs discriminated against her based on her sexual orientation by referring her to another physician for the performance of an IUI (intrauterine insemination) in the course of fertility treatment.

The court's ruling holds that the First Amendment right to free speech and the free exercise of religion cannot be used as a defense to a claim of unlawful discrimination that is based on sexual orientation.

Dr. Brody began treating Ms. Benitez in August 1999 for infertility and informed the patient at the outset that the only procedure during the course of the extended fertility treatment as to which she had a religious issue was an IUI. The defendants contend that Ms. Benitez and her partner understood and agreed in advance to a future referral to another physician, at no expense to Ms. Benitez, should the IUI become necessary. After other fertility protocols were unsuccessful, Ms. Benitez objected to the IUI referral contending that she was being discriminated against because she was a lesbian.

Of course there are several takes on these news from California. Some are touting this as another victory against discrimination based on sexual orientation, others are seeing it as a limitation on religious freedom.

I find this disturbing! Of course physicians may not deny life saving treatment to any patient based on sexual orientation, but that they be forced to act againt their conscience and religious belief when it comes to an elective procedure seems a little much!

This case seems to be akin to that of physicians and pharmacists prescribing medication to induce an abortion. Yes, it is available and legal, but for some doctors and pharmacists to prescribe or dispense would be a violation of their religious belief and conscience. If the desired procedure or medication is available to the patient elsewhere in the community and the physician makes an appropiate referal, that should fall under acceptable medical practice.

I am very much in favor of the equal treament of gays and lesbians in society and the church, but no ammount of positive publicity makes this decision feel right! It seems like the court is limiting the religious freedom and constitutional rights of some to expand the privileges and services available to others.



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