Monday, August 18, 2008

California Supreme Court Rules Doctors Cannot Refuse To Treat Gays On Religious Grounds

Quoting the major Sacramento newspaper:

California's highest court on Monday barred doctors from invoking their religious beliefs as a reason to deny treatment to gays and lesbians, ruling that state law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination extends to the medical profession...

Justice Joyce Kennard wrote in the ruling that two Christian fertility doctors who refused to artificially inseminate a lesbian have neither a free speech right nor a religious exemption from the state's law, which "imposes on business establishments certain antidiscrimination obligations."

Must doctors also perform abortions now? Or does this ruling merely mean that if you perform abortions for some, you must perform them for all--making this ruling merely an anti-discrimination case?

Some Christian pharmacists did not want to stock certain abortion drugs (RU486?). I don't know how that situation was resolved, but are pharmacists required to sell specific drugs? Are car dealers required to sell specific cars?


Loni said...

Unlike abortion, it is not the specific treatment that offends the doctor, rather the group of people they are giving the treatment to.

A doctor still has a right not to proceed with one treatment verses another; they do this all the time: this patient needs an Exray, this one doesn't need surgery...Discriminating against certain types of treatment are part of being a doctor. Similarly many pharmacies don't carry EVERY drug, some for sheerly spacial and economic reasons. I don't think I can get medical marijuana at the place down the street.

But as for refusing to give medical attention to someone because she is gay, that falls under the same category as refusing to seat someone at your restaurant because she is black. Furthermore, If doctors are allowed to discriminate against patients, there's a chance they could invoke their right during an emergency, as in "well he deserves to die of sudden heart failure...he is a ho-mo-sexual."

Frankly though, I can't imagine how you can religiously justify not treating someone who needs it for whatever reason.

Darren said...

Refusing to perform specific procedures, I can agree with. Refusing to perform specific procedures on certain adults because of who they are, I cannot. Being required to stock and provide specific drugs, I cannot.

Michael said...

The ruling basically makes slaves of doctors- they cannot dictate who they will work with or for.

Of course, they're not the first to be made slaves of by well-meaning states, and they probably won't be the last.

Your free agency doesn't exist if you dare cross some member of a politically favored group.

The women got her fertility treatments from another doctor that the doctor in question referred her to. The doctor in question also gave her instructions on how to 'self-treat', if you will.

Neither of that was good enough, for she is a lesbian, and thou shalt not offend lesbians. So she sued.

erica said...

It seems to me that in providing a private service, you should be able to discriminate against whomsoever you choose for any or no reason.

I feel that the doctor in this case acted ethically by providing a referral for equivalent service. I don't have any problems with their actions.

Ellen K said...

There's a difference between humanitarian lifesaving and artificial insemination. While certainly a doctor should aid a patient who is hemorrhaging, they don't have to help someone get pregnant. The ability to bear children doesn't impact viability. This is just the usual suspects in the courts pushing around people to make them violate their personal beliefs. I wonder if they would similarly force a devout Muslim or Jew to eat pork?

Nigel said...

I don't believe that religion should have ANY play in the practice of medicine. ..oddly enough though, it does. Some docs got religion.

If a mother's life is in imminent danger due to the organism growing inside of her, and the only to save her life is from an abortion, and the doctor refuses due to his or her own religious beliefs.. and she dies, then I think he should be held culpable. That is gross malpractice and in my opinion, against the oath that he swore, "to do no harm."

Obviously, each situation is going to be exorbitantly complicated, and cannot be summed up in one short paragraph, but I'm sure you can surmise what I mean.

For an elective procedure, I think the doctor should be obligated to refer the patient to another doctor. That's it. For non-elective procedures.. hell no.

For a primary care physician to refuse treatment to a gay man (the treatment having nothing to do with his sex life or personal choices) is unethical. If a straight doctor can refuse treatment to a homosexual, then can't a gay doctor refuse treatment to a straight woman? Let's see what happens when THAT scenario comes about.

How about we leave the decisions on the practice of medicine to the doctors, shall we? Last I checked, it was doctors who best decide what is and is not ethical in a doctor's office, not some dudes in a courthouse.

The military decides what ethics for military personnel (i.e., separate court system), why can't the AMA (or another medical board) decide what medical ethics is?

Besides, we aren't talking about refusing to perform a late-term abortion here—we're just talking about the refusal of treatment to a homosexual by a homophobic doctor. There's a difference.