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Calgary in the spotlight
Westglen Medical Centre became the topic of much recent debate when the walk-in clinic posted a sign at the front desk that read, "The physician on duty today will not prescribe the birth control pill."
According to the Calgary Herald, the clinic's receptionist confirmed Dr. Barry's policy is indeed based on her "personal preferences" and added that when she is in the office (only one doctor is available in the clinic at any one time) patients seeking birth control are given a list of other local doctors that will prescribe it.
How is this doctor still legally allowed to practice? Isn't it the doctor's responsibility to treat the patient based on their specific health needs regardless of personal opinion?
As it turns out, Dr. Barry is not doing anything against the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta's policy on Moral or Religious Beliefs Affecting Medical Care, which states that doctors can indeed refuse to provide medical services. However, in doing so they must also ensure that the patient is offered "timely access" to medical services from another practitioner. Barry is not even required by the policy to have another practitioner on-hand to provide the prescription.
So is that where the story ends? In this case, it appears so. She declined to comment on her stance and the owner of the facility "could not be reached for comment." The end.
But this shouldn't be the end. What if Dr. Barry's, or any other doctors' for that matter, moral beliefs led her to refuse other care — such as a heart transplant? Missing a few days of birth control might not kill a woman, but it could indeed alter her life forever if she's responsibly trying to avoid getting pregnant. So it's not all that different than refusing care to a patient in an immediate life-or-death situation.
When I was interviewing pediatricians before my children were born, I was on the fence about vaccinating simply because I didn't know very much about the subject at the time besides the onslaught on falsities that are available on the internet. However, I knew immediately who my kids' pediatrician would become when I asked him his stance on vaccinations and he pointed me to specific scientific research supporting vaccinations as well as detailed actual cases to prove vaccinations and autism are not linked. He was passionate about the topic, it was clear. It's obvious what his own beliefs were. But along with his personal beliefs, he had hard facts and proven scientific research at the ready. I loved him instantly and still trust him entirely with my kids' health.
Of course doctors should have strong beliefs about their profession, and they should be passionate about the care they are providing. After all, our lives are literally in their hands. However, if they feel strongly one way or the other, whether it's refusing to prescribe birth control or strongly advising children to get fully vaccinated, they should have the proven scientific research to back up their beliefs. And they should be providing the best care for each specific patient instead of putting down a blanket statement based on personal "morals" alone.
Tell us!^ What do you think? Should Dr. Barry be allowed to continue refusing to prescribe birth control based on her personal beliefs?