Simple Solutions to Complicated Situations are Inadequate.
Overriding a woman’s decision to control when she wants to reproduce because one has completed medical school is unprofessional. No other “profession” can afford to indulge in this type of personal opinion decision-making.
This is further complicated by a) the fact that doctors are paid by the government (also known as the tax payer’s money), b) the Ontario Medical Association has failed to ensure there are enough doctors for the general population leaving individuals and families without consistent medical care creating a situation where patients are wary of challenging and potentially alienating their doctor if they are fortunate enough to have one, and c) the on-going God complex (or at the least the Father-like insistence) held by some doctors that allows them to make decisions that contradict the needs of their patients. When a doctor refuses to prescribe birth control, support a woman’s decision to end an unwanted pregnancy, support a man’s decision to not father children (or any more children) this is what is happening. It is also not okay to replace requested medical care with a referral to another doctor.
Doctors do possess power over their patients, as do dentists, engineers, teachers, plumbers and anyone else whose expertise we rely on in order to live productive lives. And for this reason it is all the more important that they put aside personal beliefs and act in an unbiased manner. Only a health care system that respects the individual and supports their needs can be viewed as working. After all, it is I who knows my life best, who knows my limitations best, who knows what may or may not work for me, who knows best how my body is feeling and what I can endure. It is my doctor’s job to support me, as it is I who am truly responsible for my wellbeing. It is not my doctor’s job to parent me or any other of their patients.
This is more than an ideological rant. It is grounded in experience. Experiences that we as women do not need our daughters and granddaughters to re-live. When I was 19 going on 20 I was on the pill. I went on the pill at 18 when I realized I wanted to make love with my boyfriend. In those days you needed to take the pill for a month before it was deemed safe. The pill was the safest method at that time, next to condoms and foam, which if one failed (the rubber broke) significantly increased your risk of becoming pregnant.
At 19 going on 20 I was home for the summer and working and my prescription was about to run out. The pharmacist had warned me and I knew I needed to make an appointment with my doctor. Being 19 turning 20 I phoned my doctor’s office half way through my last pack of pills. I was told the next available appointment would be after I had finished this cycle of pills and after I was to have started the next pack. So I asked if I could get a script for one month so that there would be no disruption in the pill’s effectiveness. I was 19 going on 20, healthy and not having any side effects to the drug and I was more than willing to come in earlier. I was also willing to see any of the other doctors in the office if that would work. The nurse checked with my doctor while I held and the answer was a resounding “No”. I was to see him and only him and he would not write a script for an additional month. After hanging up I went from being shocked to crying to becoming angry that this doctor could so easily make a decision that could have such a great impact on my young life.
Thank God for Sue Johanson who had set up a birth control clinic not too far from my home. I went there the next time it was open and the doctor there examined me and wrote me another script. I then went to my doctor’s office and asked for my medical records and informed them that I was leaving the practice and why. The nurse went to speak with the doctor before she gave me my records and as she handed them over I remember her telling me she understood perfectly why I was leaving and that I wasn’t the only one something like this had happened to. Yet, 30+ years later I open the newspaper and see that not only does this practice continue but that the OMA is now somehow rationalizing that it should be legitimized. Wow! And so I have to now say: Grow-up. Do your job. If you’d prefer to pass judgment on someone’s personal decisions become a religious figure. We need doctors who respect our choices, and the choices of our daughters and granddaughters, whatever they may be. If you can’t do this, then you are not doing your job. This is a democracy, not a fundamentalist state. In this area your opinion holds no more weight than mine. Actually, I don’t think “opinion” matters here at all.