Friday, February 09, 2007

Father knows best

"Even after we controlled for religious characteristics, women physicians were substantially more likely to say doctors must give all information and refer patients," the LA Times quotes one Dr. Farr A. Curlin saying. They were studying the information provided by doctors on these three controversial procedures: "having an abortion because of failed contraception; prescribing birth control to adolescents without parental consent; and 'terminal sedation,' a legal method of pain relief for dying patients that falls short of euthanasia, though in the process of relieving pain it may also bring death more quickly."

I notice that two of these three are procedures specific to women. (Whatever happened to the pill for men?) It doesn't mention any discrepancy between giving information on those procedures and the last, which would be an interesting nuance to note. Is there some reason why the male thinks he's so much more likely to be right about what is the correct choice in another person's life?

It is perfectly alright to have your own moral values. It is quite another thing to impose those on someone else when it has large effects on that life. A doctor is charged with giving a patient all the accepted options, not just the ones without controversy. A patient is not charged with following a doctor's personal morality.

Quite a few months ago, Ellen Goodman argued on the crime perpetrated by pharmacists refusing to dispense drugs on moral grounds. It is so easily argued. Making choices that can be detrimental to another's life when that person is doing nothing illegal should have consequences. Yet we make more and more laws which are essentially protecting the powerful over the powerless.

Well, the doctor is not father and he or she doesn't know what is the best option for another's life. I hope the power trip these doctors get from withholding information is a good one, because someone else pays a hefty price for it.

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