Project Letter to the Barrie Examiner

Barrie, Ontario, Canada
22 February, 2002

Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project

Continuing attempts to suppress the freedom of conscience of health care workers like Dr. Stephen Dawson (“Doctor’s Faith Under Scrutiny,” The Barrie Examiner February 21, 2002) give the lie to the claim, oft repeated by Canadian politicians, that protection of conscience legislation is unnecessary. Perhaps their complacent attitude reflects the influence of rigid party discipline that only rarely permits them  the ‘privilege’ of voting according to conscience.

Professor J.R. Brown of the University of Toronto appears to covet the role of party whip, ready to lash or to exile recalcitrant ‘scum’ like Dr. Dawson for daring to let their beliefs affect their public behaviour.

Yet Professor Brown’s private beliefs affected his public behaviour when he asserted that people like Dr. Dawson should “find another job.” Will Professor Brown take his own advice? Or will he continue to speak, act and live in accordance with his own beliefs, even as he denies the same freedom to others who think differently – those whom he characterizes as ‘scum’?

Thoughtful readers will recognize that their relationships and their political and social activities are almost always governed, not by an analysis of empirical evidence, but by deeply held convictions about human dignity and equality, about good and evil, and other equally fundamental concepts. Some of these beliefs may be religious, others not, but all are beliefs. There is no reason, apart from anti-religious bigotry, to allow only atheists and agnostics the freedom to act on their beliefs in public life.

Doctor’s faith under scrutiny

Barrie physician won’t offer the pill, could lose his licence

 Cheryl Canning

Dr. Stephen Dawson faces a discipline committee at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario in April because he refused to prescribe birth control pills to unmarried women.

A Barrie doctor could lose his licence to practise medicine because of his religious beliefs.

Dr. Stephen Dawson faces a discipline committee at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario in April because he refused to prescribe birth control pills to unmarried women.

“If a Christian physician must forsake his religious beliefs to maintain his medical licence, we cannot delude ourselves to believe we live in a free country,” said Dawson.

Last summer, four female patients made formal complaints to the college, citing Dawson’s refusal to prescribe birth control to the “unmarried” women as the reason, he said.

Dawson believes that when a doctor prescribes birth control pills to an unmarried woman, he unwittingly promotes sex outside of marriage, because he removes the fear of pregnancy. [Full text]

Testimony from the gynaecological-obstetrical frontline

André O. Devos, MD*

. . .Since a fair amount of their income was the result of contraception, and surgical sterilisation, I refused to join the pool . . . According to my conscience, I could not accept any part of that income. I soon was dismissed, losing hospitalisation and surgical privileges. The letter of dismissal was signed both by our Mother Superior . . . and . . . a Reverend Canon, who at the same time was one of the secretaries of our
Bishop. [Full text]

Catholic Charities files lawsuit against the State of California

A law passed in 1999 included a requirement that would force Catholic hospitals to provide employee insurance coverage for artificial contraception. This has resulted in a lawsuit against the state. An application for a preliminary injunction is to be heard in a Sacramento Court in late August.

 

Access to appointments: the effect of discrimination on careers

T. Everett Julyan, MBChB BSc *

 ABSTRACT

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]

Question of conscience

R. L. Walley, FRCSC, FRCOG, MPH *

It was quite a surprise, back in 1973, to be informed by an eminent professor of obstetrics and gynaecology . . as a Roman Catholic specialist, that “there is no place for to practice within the National Health Service . . .” [I]n order to stay in the specialities in the United kingdom, I would have had to compromise a  conscientiously held abhorrence to the direct taking of human life. I refused and as a consequence became unemployed with a wife and three children and had to leave country, home and family in order to practise my chosen specialty in full freedom.[Full text]