Another day, another doctor deciding that it’s just fine to impose his morality on his patients. This time, it’s a doctor in Marlborough who thinks that it’s okay for him to refuse to renew his patients’ prescriptions for contraceptives.
Except that this chap goes a step or two further than most dispensers of morality.
Lee, a doctor at Wairau Community Clinic in Blenheim, stood by his views and actions. “I don’t want to interfere with the process of producing life,” the Catholic father-of-two told the Herald on Sunday.
Lee also does not prescribe condoms, and encourages patients as young as 16 to use the rhythm method.
Teen pregnancy might be a girl’s “destiny”, he said, and it was certainly not as bad as same- sex marriage.
Let me tell you the other name for the rhythm method. It’s commonly known as “Vatican roulette”. The failure rate of this contraceptive method is high: about 24% of women using Vatican roulette become pregnant each year (one, two).
So this doctor prefers to prescribe a method that is much much less efficacious than other methods of contraception. About the only “method” that is worse is not using contraception at all.
You might just possibly be able to argue that Dr Lee shouldn’t be obliged to go against his own morality in the conduct of his employment. But whether or not that’s a viable argument, it’s not tenable in this case. Dr Lee is on the public coin. A large part of his income is funded by government, so that people in New Zealand have access to healthcare. And government in this country is secular.
More than that, Dr Lee’s direct employer, the Marlborough Primary Health Organisation, says that patients’ rights are governed by the Health and Disability Commissioner’s Code of Rights, which includes rights such as this:
Every consumer has the right to be provided with services that take into account the needs, values, and beliefs of different cultural, religious, social, and ethnic groups, including the needs, values, and beliefs of Maori.
Every consumer has the right to have services provided in a manner that respects the dignity and independence of the individual.
Every consumer has the right to the information that a reasonable consumer, in that consumer’s circumstances, would expect to receive, including –
a) An explanation of his or her condition; and
b) An explanation of the options available, including an assessment of the expected risks, side effects, benefits, and costs of each option…
I’m finding it hard to understand how Dr Lee’s employer thinks that he is doing enough to comply with this code of rights.
But that’s not all.
The only circumstances in which [Dr Lee] would prescribe the contraceptive pill would be if a woman wanted space between pregnancies, or had at least four children. (ref)
So there you are, ladies. You’re all obliged to have at least four children each.
What I find horrid about this is the extent to which this man feels that he is entitled to control women’s lives and bodies, and to impose his own morality on them. He expects to be in a position of moral authority over his patients.
I find this offensive. As I have written before (one, two), perhaps it used to be reasonable to approach doctors for moral advice, when they were often the only highly educated person in a community. But that’s hardly so any more. And in any case, using contraception is not considered a morally difficult issue by the great majority of New Zealanders. It’s only some fringe religious groups who think that using contraception is morally impermissible. I say “fringe” deliberately: only a small minority of New Zealanders are practising Christians, and of those who are, an even smaller number subscribe to the view that contraception is wrong.
Dr Lee is right out of line. And so is the system which allows him to overrule his patients’ rights, and attempt to control his patients’ lives and bodies, because of his own private morality.