Freedom from conscience

The Interim


On June 24, Joan Chand’oiseau saw a sign at the front desk of the Westglen Medical Centre in Calgary: “The physician on duty today will not prescribe the birth control pill.” The sign, put up only when Dr. Chantal Barry is the sole physician at the clinic, so offended the would-be birth-controller that she has since made the good doctor’s principled objection her casus belli for a modern-day, social-media crusade. The apparent slight against Chand’oiseau has now garnered national attention, with political candidates dutifully – if pitifully – conforming to the conventional wisdom: that some wrong has been done, and some remedy must be made. – [Full Text]

If you want birth control pills, go to a different doctor

 Calgary Herald
Reproduced with permission

John Carpay

A Calgary doctor’s refusal to prescribe birth control pills has triggered demands for her ouster from the medical profession.

Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Jim Prentice has denounced the doctor’s choice to follow her conscience as inconsistent with “a doctor’s obligation in a public health-care system.” Apparently Prentice believes that a doctor should simply do and provide whatever the patient wants done and provided, regardless of the doctor’s education, training, experience, conscience, and professional judgment.

This raises some interesting questions. If a doctor, based on her experience and research, believes that liberation therapy (dilating and opening blocked neck veins) is not a good option for patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, must she provide that therapy simply because the patient demands it?

What about a doctor who is convinced that anti-cholesterol pills do more harm than good? What if a doctor refuses to prescribe birth control pills because she believes, apart from any religious teaching, that they compromise women’s health? Should this physician disregard her own research, analysis and conclusions and prescribe what she considers to be a dangerous product?

Does it really matter whether the doctor’s belief is characterized as scientific, religious, metaphysical, conscientious, or something else?

Certainly a doctor’s beliefs about what is, or is not, good medicine will sometimes inconvenience a patient. But what would be the consequences of forcing doctors to abandon their professional judgment and violate their conscience in order to pander to patients’ wishes? If the government compels doctors to supply whatever patients demand, this presupposes that a patient’s knowledge, training and judgment is at least equal to that of the doctor’s. And if so, why bother with a medical profession in the first place? If individual doctors don’t have the right to reach their own conclusions as to what is good or bad, why bother to distinguish doctors from those who are not doctors?

These same questions apply to other professions and occupations. Would Jim Prentice (who is a lawyer) impose this same standard on lawyers who refuse to act for a client, or who decline to take a particular case, because the lawyer’s conscience says that doing so would be wrong? Our legal system is as public as the medical system. Why not remove from lawyers their current right to refuse to advance a cause that the lawyer believes to be unjust? Should lawyers be permitted to inconvenience prospective clients by telling them to find another lawyer? Shouldn’t clients be entitled to receive from a particular lawyer whatever services they demand?

The same question about a consumer’s supposed right to be free from inconvenience arises in other contexts. Should a Jewish or Muslim butcher be compelled to sell pork to the public, just because pork is popular? Or should the citizens of a free society exhibit tolerance and respect for the conscience of these businessmen, and suffer the inconvenience of buying pork elsewhere?

A free and democratic society allows consumers and providers to accept or decline each other’s business, without state coercion. In a free society, the government does not force doctors, lawyers, butchers and other people to do things that they do not wish to do. This is freedom, and it sometimes causes inconveniences. But freedom cannot coexist with a purported “right” of patients, clients and consumers to use government’s coercive power to obtain whatever goods or services they want, from unwilling suppliers.

People who cherish our free society understand that the inconvenience of not immediately getting what you want is part of life. We live in a society where people have all manner of differing beliefs and commitments. Part of the price we pay for freedom is that not everyone will wish to help you do what you want. You may need to find a different doctor, or another lawyer. You may need to go to a different butcher or restaurant to buy pork. People who disagree with you are people too.

If Jim Prentice respects the freedom of lawyers to decline cases and clients, he should support the right of doctors – and everyone else – to do likewise. That would be consistent with the free society of which Albertans are rightfully proud.


Calgary doctor who won’t prescribe birth control backed by pro-life medical professionals

 LifeSite News

Pete Balinski

CALGARY, Alberta — After a doctor received national flak for refusing to prescribe contraception in a Calgary walk-in clinic, an Alberta pharmacist and a British Columbia doctor have risen to her defense.

“I commend her on her stance and courage,” clinical pharmacist Denis Nawrocki, a member of Pharmacists for Life International, told LifeSiteNews. “She has every professional right to exercise her conscience and keep to her convictions. Congratulations are in order.”

The story broke last week that Dr. Chantal Barry of the Westglen Medical Centre in Calgary does not prescribe ‘the pill’ after one irate woman posted to her Facebook account a picture of a sign on the facility’s front desk.

“Please be informed that the physician on duty today will not prescribe the birth control pill,” the sign reads.

“I was shocked and outraged,” Joan Chand’oiseau, 45, who posted the picture to Facebook, told Postmedia News. “I don’t think her belief system should have any part in my reproductive health.” . . . [Full text]

Should doctors have the right to refuse to prescribe birth control because of their religious beliefs?

CBC Radio

Day 6

Last week Joan Chand’oiseau was outraged to learn that the physician at her Calgary walk-in clinic refused to prescribe birth control because of her religious beliefs. Chand’oiseau’s story broke just after Canada’s largest medical regulator – The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario – announced it would be revisiting its policies on physicians and the Human Rights Code.  We check in with Joan Chand’oiseau, and invite  Margaret Somerville, Director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, and Arthur Schafer, director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba, to debate whether doctors should have the right to refuse to treat a patient on religious or moral grounds.



Calgary doctor refuses to prescribe birth control due to personal beliefs

Marlene Leung

A Calgary doctor who will not prescribe birth control because she says it goes against her personal beliefs has triggered outrage among patients.

Dr. Chantal Barry will not prescribe birth control pills due to her religious beliefs. When Barry is working as the lone walk-in physician at the Westglen Medical Centre in southwest Calgary, a sign is put up telling patients that they will not be able to get a prescription for contraception that day.

When Joan Chand’oiseau saw the sign, she was shocked and outraged by the policy, which she says is judgemental.

“It contains overt judgement of my choices and my reproductive health,” she told CTV Calgary. “I think that affects everyone in that clinic, regardless of whether or not they’re visiting that doctor.” . . . [Full text]

Doctor on duty ‘will not prescribe the birth control pill,’ reads sign at Calgary walk-in clinic

National Post

Manisha Krishnan

CALGARY – A doctor at a Calgary walk-in clinic is refusing to prescribe birth control due to her personal beliefs.

Dr. Chantal Barry will not prescribe contraception, a receptionist at the Westglen Medical Centre confirmed. Patients looking for birth control are provided a list of other offices in the city that prescribe it.

Westglen only has one doctor available to walk-in patients at any given time, so a sign at the facility’s front desk reads, “The physician on duty today will not prescribe the birth control pill.”

“I was shocked and outraged,” said Joan Chand’oiseau, 45, who saw the sign while attending an appointment with her gynecologist Tuesday. Ms. Chand’oiseau immediately posted a photo of the sign on Facebook, prompting angry responses from several of her friends.

“I don’t think her belief system should have any part in my reproductive health,” she said.

Under the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta’s policy on Moral or Religious Beliefs Affecting Medical Care, doctors can refuse to provide medical services, but must ensure the patient is offered timely access to those services from another practitioner. . . [Full text]