T. Everett Julyan, MBChB BSc *
INTRODUCTION The practice of discriminating between applicants for posts within obstetrics and gynaecology on the basis of their beliefs about the status of the embryo is becoming increasingly common. This affects not only the individual discriminated against, but also medicine and society as a whole. When this discrimination is faced because of a desire to please the God of the Bible it is more accurately described as persecution (Matthew 5:10-12).
EFFECTS ON THE INDIVIDUAL The effects of this persecution on the individual may be vocational, social, financial, emotional or spiritual. These include influencing ultimate choice of career, rejection by colleagues, unemployment in extreme cases, disappointment, disillusionment and temptation towards compromise. The only positives may be the maintenance of personal integrity and promise of heavenly reward.
EFFECTS ON MEDICINE & SOCIETY Excluding all those who refuse to end a human life simply because its existence happens to be inconvenient to another does medicine a disservice. It is antithetical to historical medicine which calls for self-sacrifice on the part of the doctor in order to preserve the patient according to an established ethical code. It seems that contemporary medicine only wants doctors who follow the status quo by changing their ethical framework to suit the wishes of their patients. The logical outcome of this kind of thinking is that autonomy may be considered to be of greater value than human life in a variety of clinical situations. But medical practice will become unethical if doctors are expected to give treatment which they consider to be inappropriate, such as killing an unborn child. The practice of medicine is in danger of becoming a commodity marketed with the expedient business ethic of supply on demand, where the value of human life can fluctuate as a relative integer. Denying employment to those who seek to preserve life instead of destroying it is a logical step of pragmatism in a culture where abortion is on demand. But medicine should not be a business designed to supply every demand indiscriminately when the demand may not be in the patient’s best interests. If medicine evolves by defining good practice simply as what the patient wants then society will ultimately become a victim of its own unethical requests (cf. Romans 1:28-32).
CONCLUSION Discrimination against those who refuse to include ending human life as part of their job description is becoming increasingly common. However, this serves neither doctors nor patients and is a symptom of a relativistic view of medical ethics. Its detrimental effects are far-reaching, affecting individuals, the medical profession and society in general. Those who see the dangers in this trend have a duty to protect society, the future of medicine, their colleagues and themselves from wrongly redefining beneficence and non-maleficence. [Full text]