There has been some debate in clinical news over whether a health care professional may refuse to provide treatment to which they object on moral grounds.

These medical procedures would include administering terminal sedation in dying patients, providing abortion for failed contraception, and prescribing birth control to adolescents without parent approval.

I personally have different feelings about each one of the procedures listed and I am sure that many physicians feel the same. I think it is important to understand the ethics of physicians today, and what they feel are their obligations are when a conflict in their practice emerges.

In a study conducted my the New England Journal of Medicine, most doctors will explain their moral objections to patients, present all options, and refer to another clinic that does not object to the requested medical procedure.

One deviation from these results existed when the physician was a man of religious belief who personally objected to the procedure. These physicians were less likely to refer patients, or talk about other options since these doctors considered such practices to be morally controversial medical procedures.

Is it ethical for a doctor to refuse treatment or referral?

The procedures I am talking about are all legal medical procedures…so are these physicians going against the Hippocratic Oath?

When one reviews the oath it is often difficult to grasp due the the unnecessarily irritating and inciting phraseology. I was able to find an altered version of the Physician’s Oath from the University of Washington’s Medical Program, to bring its words and ideas into consonance with today’s trends:

At the time of being admitted as a member of the medical profession;
I solemnly pledge myself to consecrate my life to the service of humanity.
I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude which is their due;
I will practice my profession with conscience and dignity;
The health of my patient will be my first consideration;
I will respect the secrets, which are confided in me;
I will maintain by all the means in my power, the honor and the noble traditions of the medical profession;
My colleagues will be my sisters and brothers;
I will respect and value the lives of all persons;
I will not discriminate against any person in medical decisions;
I will maintain the utmost respect for human life; even under threat, I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity.
I make these promises solemnly, freely, and upon my honor.

I believe that every physician should inform their patient of all legal medical options, and not take second the health of the patient. If the physician is not comfortable with the procedure than by all means refer them to another physician that can help them.

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