News & Politics

Bush Official: Doctor's Right to Withold Info Greater Than Patient's Right to Receive It

The Bush Administration has already said that doctors should be able to deny medical care to women. Now they want to deny information, too.
Surprise, surprise: the Bush Administration thinks that Ob/Gyns should not only have the right to deny women basic medical care like abortion, emergency contraception or regular old birth control, but they should also be able to refuse to provide a referral to another doctor for these services.
Last Friday, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt sent a letter to the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, with a copy to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Leavitt said he was concerned about an ethics committee statement from ACOG in November stating that doctors should either be prepared to perform "standard reproductive services" or else refer those patients to someone who will.
Leavitt's letter said he was even more concerned that the Ob/Gyn board had made adherence to that policy a requirement for certification.
Pro-life Ob/Gyns complained that that would require them to make abortion referrals, something they morally opposed. And in his letter, Leavitt said that could violate federal laws protecting health workers' conscience rights.
But here's the thing. Also shockingly, Leavitt is an idiot. Not only because he sent such an outrageous letter in response to such a practical guideline -- essentially stating that a person actually does have a right to medical care regardless of who their doctor prays to on Sunday -- but because the board in no way makes adherence to this commonsense guideline a requirement for certification. It should be a requirement, of course; I don't really know how the hell you could certify a doctor who refuses to provide his or her patients with basic information about services he or she doesn't like and expect an acceptable result. But the fact remains that it's not a requirement. And so Leavitt is not only an asshole who thinks doctors should be able to withhold information, he's also an asshole who doesn't bother to verify information before widely disseminating it.
Cara Kulwicki is the founder of The Curvature, where she blogs daily about a wide range of feminist issues.
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