Can a physician refuse to treat a patient based on religious views? This is a question that is being brought before the California Supreme Court. Oral arguments were presented on May 28th. At the center of the case is a woman who is making the claim that she was refused an intrauterine insemination with donated sperm because of her sexual orientation. (ABC)
Benitez, now 36, is a lesbian. She sued her doctors under California's civil rights laws, charging that they discriminated against her because of her sexual orientation. Today, the state Supreme Court will consider whether a doctor can invoke his faith to refuse a patient treatment.In reading articles from sources like the LA times, AP, and ABC, the press is spinning this into a gay verses religious issue. They always love doing that. Also, take a look at the LA times comment section - definitely no love lost for docs. The press also like to sprinkle in a little racism undertones to add fuel to the fire.
Benitez's lawyer, Pizer, compared their response to the civil rights era: "I don't treat black patients, but I will refer you to someone who will." "It opened our eyes to discrimination," Clark said. "We knew how black people felt and didn't realize how deep it went and how on-guard it makes you."Here's my take on this case. First of all, fertility services are an ELECTIVE procedure - meaning this is not an emergency situation. The rules are entirely different for an elective procedure. The press is playing this off as the docs refusing "the right" of treatment. And, people are asking on "how can doctors refuse treatment?" "Doctors should be required to do these services or have their license taken away." If this was a doc refusing to treat a unstable and dying patient because of religious or any other beliefs, that would be a lot different. But, this is not the case here.
Secondly, when it comes to non-emergency treatment, doctors, nurses, hospitals, dentists, chiropractors, physicians assistants, minute clinics, and anyone else in the medical field - can and have - refused treatment - pretty much on any grounds. Whether it's right or wrong in your opinion, finances are a reason. Some offices don't accept Medicare anymore. Some offices don't accept Medicaid anymore. Most offices do not accept every single insurance out there. If people don't pay their bill, then they are terminated from treatment. Is this discrimination? Some say it is. Some say it's not fair, but it happens every day in this country.
I have the ability to prescribe antibiotics for conditions which I think are appropriate. If a gay person wants antibiotics and I don't think they're appropriate, does that make me a homophobe? If a person of different race and I disagree on a particular treatment course, or if I refer this person to someone I think would be more appropriate for a treatment, does that make me a racist?
The press and the media have engrained in this culture that patients have the ability and "the right" to refuse any treatment that they like. The press and the media have engrained in this culture that patients have the ability and "the right" to sue any and all doctors if they believe they received inappropriate treatment. The press and the media have engrained in this culture that patients have the ability and "the right" to express their religious beliefs to a point where patient care may be compromised. Even soldiers in the war zone can refuse (on religious or any other grounds) to take any role that would support a combatant organization armed forces. Do docs have any rights here?
This California case is NOT about sexual orientation or religion or racism or refusal of treatment. This is about seeking different options with regard to an elective procedure. Are you telling me that physicians cannot decline to treat a non-emergency condition? That's ridiculous. Fast track this case to the US Supreme Court and let's have this settled once and for all.