HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

When Is A Physician Not A Physician?

That's the question asked by Scripps Howard's Dan Thomasson, who continues:

Is it when the doctor refuses to offer treatment because of disapproval of the medicine available or the way the patient's disease occurred? How much leeway is there in the Hippocratic oath to allow a doctor to spurn those in medical need because of religious conviction or concept of morality?

And what about pharmacists who refuse to honor legitimate prescriptions or even to stock certain authorized medicines because the drugs run counter to their religious beliefs? Is there a case to be made for the primacy of conscience in those cases, even though a pharmacist's responsibilities are not dissimilar to a doctor's? Is refusing to fill a prescription tantamount to breaking the law and to making a pharmacist's judgment more important than the doctor's?

These and other questions surrounding the dispensing of modern medicine are being asked by state legislatures, ethics boards and public forums throughout the nation in the wake of controversial new research and compounds and treatments that run counter to fundamental religious convictions on such issues as stem-cell development, abortion, AIDS, the right to die. Chances are excellent that before the debate is over, it will change the way health care is dispensed in this country.

The rest of Thomasson's story, "Faith Shouldn't Outweigh Hippocratic Oath," is here.   [tm]

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