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Posted on November 29, 2007 at 2:23 PM

The moral objections of pharmacists have gotten a lot of attention over the last few years, but according to a recent CNN report moral objection is increasingly an issue in doctors’ offices. From a transcript of the segment:

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In June, this 24- year-old from Texas asked her doctor for birth control pills, and got an earful.

“MELISSA,” WAS REFUSED CONTRACEPTION: He told me that he didn’t believe in prescribing birth control. He thought it was morally wrong, that I shouldn’t be having sex. And he launched into a lecture about, you know, ethically, you know, how I need to rethink things.

KAYE: She doesn’t want to share her doctor’s name or her own, so we will call her Melissa. She told us her doctor was Catholic.

MELISSA: I have no problem with a doctor being a practicing religious person. But they do not have a right to impose that on their patients.

KAYE (on camera): Yet, more and more patients are getting a dose of religion in the exam room. Doctors are rejecting patients whose care throws their moral compass off course. In a study published this year in “The New England Journal of Medicine,” 63 percent of the doctors surveyed said it was OK to voice their moral objections to patients.

DR. SCOTT ROSS, FAMILY PHYSICIAN: The struggle is always there.

KAYE (voice-over): Dr. Scott Ross, a Catholic family physician in Virginia, believes contraception interferes with God’s plan to breathe life into us, so he doesn’t prescribe birth control.

(on camera): So, if someone came to you today and said they would like contraception or the morning-after pill, what do you tell them?

ROSS: I’m very frank with them and say, that’s something that I don’t do. It’s not part of my practice.

KAYE (voice-over): Dr. Ross says he has denied contraception to at least a dozen patients.

(on camera): Do you ever feel as though you’re playing the role of judge, too?


KAYE: But when you’re denying someone something that they’re requesting, aren’t you making a judgment on whether or not they should have that care?

ROSS: I don’t know that I’m making a judgment on whether or not they should have the care. It’s just the judgment of, I can’t provide that care.

Is there a way to resolve this issue? One answer might be some kind of disclosure — something along the lines of “Welcome to my practice, let me tell you up front about the procedures that I don’t do.” Of course, that doesn’t address the issue of how to provide care to people in areas where a particular doctor’s office — or pharmacy — is the only outlet around. And there are also those situations that are time sensitive, which has led some states to require that emergency contraception be made available in emergency departments to victims of sexual assault.

-Greg Dahlmann


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