First Do No Harm

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The Ontario Liberal government is in a dither expanding the Human Rights Commissions, to the tune of several millions dollars, to ensure that no abuses go unreported.

And because they’re expanding, other branches of government have decided it’s their job to drum up business. Quick off the mark, the College of Physicians and Surgeons has issued a policy paper saying that Ontario doctors must not allow their consciences to play a role in medicine.

Isn’t that lovely? Don’t we all want doctors who will ignore their consciences? 

If one looks at the record of the Human Rights Commissions, too, it’s quite clear which consciences they are most concerned about. Whether it’s prosecuting Mark Steyn for exercising his freedom of speech to say things that Muslims may find controversial, or prosecuting Catholic Insight magazine for publishing things homosexuals may find controversial, the Commissions have consistently ruled against the traditional Judeo-Christian worldview upon which our nation was founded.

Not surprisingly, then, under the College’s rules, physicians will not be able to refuse to perform abortions, or artificial insemination on any woman who wants it, or any of these types of things which can give reasonable people pause, without risking their medical licenses. With euthanasia bills now before the House, how long before one gets in trouble for refusing to kill a patient who wanted it?

What will be the result? Fewer people will enter medicine, and current physicians will begin restricting their practices. Family values physicians will begin structuring their professional lives to avoid thorny situations. They’ll steer clear of obstetrics. They’ll steer clear of geriatrics, one of the most underserviced specialties, because end of life issues are prevalent there. And they’ll steer clear of the Emergency Room, where you never know what will come through the doors.

Under this new code it is small cities which will suffer the most. In larger cities it’s easier for physicians to pass off patients to another doctor who may not find the case objectionable. In a smaller town, where a physician may be the only one on duty in the Emergency Room, or one of only a few who delivers babies, the risks can be too great. If McGuinty is bent on bleeding small towns of physicians, he’s certainly on the right track.

But it’s not just those who are specifically pro-life who could run into problems. Many pro-choicers are still squeamish about aborting a girl because the parents want a boy, or about aborting an otherwise healthy 27-week baby. And what about female genital mutilation? Egypt has a thriving business performing the procedure on willing grown women. Even if Canada bans child genital mutilation, what if an adult woman wants it for cultural reasons? Will surgeons be allowed to say no? And it goes even farther than that. In Australia in May, a court ordered that a 12-year-old girl could begin her sex change operation, despite the father’s objections. What if a physician objects?

People of conscience do not all agree on difficult issues. If common sense ruled, we would all, doctor and patient alike, leave room for the other to have their views. If our views diverged, we would be open to pursuing a different doctor-patient relationship. That’s what people do when we respect one another. But the College isn’t interested in fostering respect; they’re interested in undermining certain values.

It once was standard for all new physicians to recite the Hippocratic Oath, which included the promise to “do no harm”. Today the Ontario government wants us to change that to “do not care.” I hope I don’t get sick.

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