Doctors and Morality

The initial sentence says it all:

A disturbing number of doctors do not feel obligated to tell patients about medical options they oppose morally, such as abortion and teen birth control, and believe they have no duty to refer people elsewhere for such treatments, researchers say.

I don’t mind the doctor not performing an operation he/she is morally opposed to if there is a qualified doctor who can perform the operation nearby. But too often, this is not the case. These doctors are as shameful as the pharmacists who decide to not dispense birth control pills.

I can’t understand why these people go into professions when they don’t want to perform the very actions their patients need from them. It’s one thing to have an educated opinion about whether or not a procedure is safe and in the best interest for the patient. It’s another thing when these doctors lie to their patients by essentially saying there’s nothing they can do for them… even though there are viable options.

The whole article reminded me of when I was in an Anatomy lab in med school. Some students walked out of the lab the first day when we were peeling the skin off our cadavers. They felt like they were doing something immoral and wrong and wanted nothing to do with it. They skipped plenty of other days in the lab as well. You just had to shake your head and worry about what type of doctors they would be one day.

Perhaps the Atheist Ethicist can add more to this discussion.

Incidentally, there’s a great website called MergerWatch that tracks hospitals that are going to be taken over by religious institutions. If you get a chance, read the Religious Restrictions page. Frightening stuff.

(Thanks to Logos for the link.)

[tags]atheist, atheism, abortion, birth control, pharmacist, Anatomy, medical school, MergerWatch, religion, Christianity, Atheist Ethicist[/tags]

  • Devika Keral

    My husband went to medical school in a very Christian part of the country, and would come home with brain-aches all the time, dealing with this type of thinking. They actually started a association of Christian medical students in his school! It’s terrible. I really wish people who are so rigid that they have to apply their personal “morality” to others would stay out of healthcare. They are endangering too many people, and for what? Threat of eternal damnation? Promise of paradise after death? It’s bonkers.

  • Logos

    Psychology is just as bad!

  • MTran

    Logos said,
    Psychology is just as bad!

    You’ve captured my attention. Could you expand on that?

  • Alonzo Fyfe


    Since my name was involked on this, I intend to answer your question in a few days on my site.

    However, just a brief note in advance:

    Your argument begs the question that dispensing birth-control pills and abortion are morally acceptable. Let’s take something that you view to be objectionable. Let us say that a law is passed that requires teachers to lead their class in a prayer every day. It is considered essential to the moral character of the student, which in turn provides benefits for all of society because such children grow up to be more moral, kinder, less vicious individuals. However, you hear of a teacher who refuses to obey this law, stating that he views it morally objectionable for a teacher to impose a moral view on his students.

    Then you come across a blog where somebody writes, “I don’t mind these teachers who refuse to give these students the prayer they need when there is another teacher nearby who can perform this service. However, too often this is not the case, and these students go without prayer.”

    This blogger goes on to suggest that teachers who refuse to lead their students in prayer should realize the obligation not to become teachers – to leave the teaching profession in the hands of those who will perform this service.

    Now, I think that there is an important difference between the birth control and abortion cases on the one hand, and the prayer case on the other. As a matter of fact (and, yes, I am a firm believer in moral facts) there is nothing immoral in birth control or early abortion (before the fetus aquires desires and, thus, interests), and that leading children in prayer in a public school is in fact morally prohibited.

    However, the question rests on whether these actions are right or wrong, not on some idea that people have the right to exercise whatever morality they please. People are not free to adopt whatever moral standards they choose. What of the parent who adopts the standard that a child should be beaten daily, do we allow him to practice his morality simply because his religion tells him to act this way?

    These pharmacists and doctors are simply mistaken as to their moral obligations to their patients.