Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Medical professionalism and religious prejudice

There we go again. Two Canadian lesbians reportedly have been denied medical services by an Egyptian born medical doctor who told them that homosexuality was against her religion and that (unsurprisingly, seeing her professed prejudices) she had no experience treating lesbians. Thankfully, Canada being Canada, the College of Physicians and Surgeons, has stepped in and promised to train international medical graduates working in the country better. Its CEO stated: "I will certainly see what I can do to make sure the college puts this on a higher burner. This is a serious issue. It's a breach of our code of ethics. We don't ever want to see this happen again."

What is interesting is that the doctors' lawyer tried to put a spin on the good medic's behavior that probably falls squarely into the category of digging yourself even deeper into the hole that you're already in. He went on record saying, ""Dr. Elias felt she should disclose to them her personal religious views. That was for the purpose of allowing them to make a decision of whether or not that might be relevant to them wanting her to become their doctor or not. That was perceived as a refusal to treat. I think that was unfortunate because that was not the intention." Clearly neither the doctor nor her good lawyer seem to appreciate that religion is a private matter. The doctor's religion based prejudices simply do not belong in the consultation. It does not matter whether Elias holds particular religious ideas or none, the point is that whatever her stance is on non-reality based matters, it must not ever impact on the provision of professional care. Things are that simple. Religious freedom does not entail the freedom to discriminate in your professional life.

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