Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude

Testimony from the Gynaecological-Obstetrical Frontline

THE FUTURE OF OBSTETRICS AND GYNAECOLOGY: The Fundamental Right To Practice and be Trained According to Conscience: An International Meeting of Catholic Obstetricians and Gynaecologist

Organised by the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations (FIAMC) and by MaterCare International (MCI)
Sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Health Pastoral Care ROME, June 17th-20th, 2001

Reproduced with permission

André O. Devos, MD*

I first like to thank the organizing committee for inviting me to address this distinguished audience.

As the general theme of this international meeting and workshop is, : "the fundamental right to practice, on the one side, and to be trained according to conscience", on the other side, I accordingly, would like to give you a double testimony from the gynaecological-obstetrical frontline. The first one will be my own experience as a gynaecologist in a Catholic hospital, this to illustrate the practice side. The second testimony will tell us something about training according to conscience at a Catholic University.

At the end of Residency training in the U.S.A., in 1968, I started as head of the department of Ob. Gyn. at the St. Joseph hospital in Bruges, Belgium, this being a private Catholic hospital. In 1988, after a merger between our hospital and the other Catholic hospital in the city, St. Luke, I was soon forced to join the 4 colleagues of the bigger St. Luke hospital and to share alike in a common financial pool.

Since a fair amount of their income was the result of contraception, and surgical sterilisation, I refused to join the pool, for obvious moral and ethical reasons. 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 of the St. Joseph hospital, and the Executive Director of St. Luke, a Reverend Canon, who at the same time was one of the secretaries of our Bishop. But wonderful are the ways of the Lord Who will never abandon those who surrender to Him in trust. I was indeed immediately, granted full privileges in our "pluralistic" City Hospital; and although the medical director was a convinced atheist, I could perform my medical duty according to the Evangelium Vitae principles until my retirement this year, on April the first. . .