Friday, 19 February 2010

Anti-abortion doctors don't want to give abortion as an option

This was the front page lead story in the Herald this morning:
Anti-abortion doctors have gone to court to challenge new Medical Council guidelines on how physicians with personal objections to abortion must deal with patients.

...The doctors filed an application in the High Court last week for a judicial review of the guidelines, titled "Beliefs and Medical Practice".

The Medical Council is withholding the guidelines until the case is decided.

The doctors' lawyer, Harry Waalkens, QC, said proceedings for a judicial review had been filed, but would not comment on the grounds for the challenge until he could speak to his clients. He would not name any of the doctors.

Their main objection is understood to involve a new section in the guidelines covering the way doctors who object to abortion must deal with patients.

It requires them to tell patients having doubts about a pregnancy that abortion is one of the options.

The final version of the document is not available, but a draft version was issued in March.

A Medical Council spokesman said changes had been made since then, but he could not provide the final text because of the court action.

The statement was intended to guide medical practitioners, and tried to balance doctors' and patients' rights - including the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion - and the entitlement to care and treatment.

The Medical Council is legally responsible for setting standards and guidelines for medical practitioners, as well as dealing with registration and claims of professional misconduct.

The law already allows doctors to refuse to provide contraception or abortion services on grounds of conscience, although they must tell patients they can consult another physician.

The draft guidelines say that regardless of their personal beliefs, doctors must ensure a pregnant woman having doubts about her pregnancy is told abortion is among the options available to her, and is given information on it and the other options.

It is the first time the issue of personal beliefs and abortion has been addressed in Medical Council guidelines, and follows a similar move in Britain.
Click through for the whole article. Deborah has a great post about it up already.


sophia b said...

Anger. Just urgh. How dare they try to frame this as their rights not to tell the full truth.

portia said...

@sophia b

Agreed. Deception is not part of the Hippocratic Oath.

Finn said...

@ portia

I know it's not part of your broader point, but the Hippocratic Oath is probably a bad one to refer to here - firstly, no NZ doctors take it, and secondly, the text of it states "I will not give a woman a pessary to procure abortion." It also involves swearing not to practice surgery, which is similarly inconvenient given advances in medical technology etc.

I think the new medical council guidelines are a good idea, although it would be useful to know what sort of enforcement will be involved. I'm certainly aware of anti-abortion GPs who routinely fail to refer patients requesting abortions to other doctors - as the article says, this is against the current guidelines.

Julie said...

No one is asking these doctors to do abortions, just to be objective and professional in advice they give to pregnant women, including allowing that abortion is one option. I don't see why it would be all that impossible to say "I'm sensing that you are unsure about this pregnancy, so I'm going to refer you to Family Planning to discuss your options more fully, as you do have a range of options, including continuing with the pregnancy, adoption and termination." See, really not that hard.

A Nonny Moose said...

"You have concerns about testicular cancer? Here, let me give you some information about that..."

"You have concerns about vaccinating your child? Here, let me give you some information about that..."

"You have concerns about diet and nutrition? Here let me give you some information about that..."

"You have concerns about pregnancy? Tough shit, uterus on legs..."

Any other health issue - particularly framed in Teh Menz, ZOMGTHINKOFTHECHILDREN, and (everyone's current favourite obsession) GEEZUSYOUFATTY - and "Doctor's Rights" would never be under contention.

Julie said...

You been reading my scheduled posts Moose? Have something coming up in the next few days along those lines.

Finn said...

@ Julie

Yes, I agree that it's easy enough to outline all the options for pregnant women. My point - and I probably phrased it badly - was at the moment doctors don't even have to do that, just say "if you're thinking about abortion you'll need to see my colleague", and this is apparently too much for some of them.

If the new guidelines are designed to open up access, then there needs to be some way of enforcing them, or at least finding out when it doesn't happen.

Boganette said...

I was going to try and write a composed response but I can't. The snark is just waiting to errupt. IT'S THEIR JOB! If they won't do their job they should be fired. They're fucking doctors. When I see a doctor I want to get treated. I don't want to hear about their fucked up religious beliefs. If I wanted a speech about an invisible man in the sky and all the great things he can do for me I'd ring my grandfather.

A Nonny Moose said...

@Julie - Brainz! :)