Saturday, April 2, 2005

Do no Harm? Pass No Judgement?

If you've been paying attention, maybe you've noticed more salvos of the culture war in the health care field. There have been reports of pharmacists not filling prescriptions because they had some moral objection to the drug involved (often contraceptives). First, there is some good news. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich approved an emergency rule requiring pharmacies to fill contraceptive prescriptions with no hassles given to the client. Under the rule, if a pharmacists objects to filling the prescription, another must step in and fill it. Hopefully a permanent rule will be ready by the time this rule is set to expire.

Now the bad news: the Michigan House passed a bill which would allow health care workers to object within 24 hours to providing a service they are personally against, or protest providing a service to someone they have a personal objection to.

I can't believe this. Why would a person go into a helping profession if he or she doesn't want to help people? That means providing care without imposing judgement, in my opinion. I had to be on the pill for a while when I was in college. The reason had nothing to do with contraception. I needed that prescription to regulate my cycle. I can't imagine how I would have felt if I'd been hassled by a pharmacist about using them, or what might have happened if that prescription hadn't been filled.

There is great danger for abuse here. Single people might be denied contraception because of some moral objection of the pharmacist. Morning after pills might not be as readily available to rape victims. A patient might be denied care if the patient's sexual orientation or lifestyle conflicts with the beliefs of the health care provider. Having these moral beliefs is a personal privilege, but when providing services necessary to enhance and sustain life is concerned, I feel we should do so without discrimination based on them. My job is to teach all of my students - not just the ones who fit my own mold of morality. We must be vigilant and make sure that the job of providing good health care is done on a nondiscriminatory basis.

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