Sunday, May 24, 2009

Abortion and medical ethics: an opposing viewpoint

[I sometimes offer to post thoughtful and well-written arguments from viewpoints other than my own. My readers all-too-infrequently take me up on this offer. Commenter Bob Hunt, however, has provided such an argument, opposing my viewpoint on Abortion and medical ethics. The comment is provided here in full. - Ed.]

Mr. Hamelin,

Some thoughts for your readers:

Your insistence that health care workers get jobs in areas of health care not likely to encroach on their moral consciences, rather than insist on the right to refuse to perform or participate in procedures based on personal morals, is already being taken to heart. It's long been the case that the reduction in the number of abortions in the U. S., as well as the lack of access to abortions for so many women, has less to do with laws restricting abortion rights and more to do with the difficulty of abortion clinics to find doctors and nurses willing to perform abortions. This is partly, no doubt, because of pressures placed on clinics and their staff by pro-life activists. But, more than that, it is because more and more doctors and nurses have moral reservations about abortion. This is why many medical schools, under pressure from abortion rights activists, started requiring that students learn how to perform abortions, because so few were voluntarily learning to do so. If conscience rights are rescinded, even more doctors and nurses will take your advice and move to fields where abortion is not an issue, and the dirth of health care workers in the field of obstetrics will only get worse.

But it will hardly end there. Obstetrics is not the only field where health care workers face moral dilemmas: neonatology, critical care, psychology, oncology, hospice, etc... Even, to a certain extent, med/surg. I don't think any of my colleagues at my hospital would deny any patient care that is in their best interest. But that is the crux: what, exactly, is in the best interest of the patient. It isn't always black and white, and I doubt that any doctor or nurse would agree that the best interest of the patient means providing care "most efficacious to achieve the well-being of the patient in the patient's own terms." There are simply too many variables to make such a vague policy practical or meaningful in any way and, yes, how far the doctor or nurse is willing to go, or what they are willing to do is one of those variables. Troublesome and/or horrific consequences of such a policy are legion.

No health care worker in his or her right mind is going to adopt a personal standard of practice that requires them to leave their conscience outside the hospital door. No health care worker regards him or herself as nothing more than a tool of the state, doing the bidding of the state, or any particular patient, no questions asked and, if you don't like it, be a plumber. You think the shortage of nurses is serious now? Do you care at all about having health care that even approaches professional standards when you need to go to the ER for that broken arm that won't kill you (though, in fact, it might)?

Bob Hunt, RN
Knoxville, TN

1 comment:

  1. This is partly, no doubt, because of pressures placed on clinics and their staff by pro-life activists. But, more than that, it is because more and more doctors and nurses have moral reservations about abortion.

    Evidence for this assertion?


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