ABORTION LAW REFORM ASSOCIATION OF NEW ZEALAND
14 July 2013 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Refusal to prescribe contraception raises wider concern about referral for care
The Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (ALRANZ) is alarmed that, according to a report in today’s Herald on Sunday, a Blenheim doctor refused to prescribed contraception to his patient, and it is calling on the Medical Council and other regulatory bodies to clarify their guidelines on so-called conscientious objection.
National President Dr. Morgan Healey said ALRANZ acknowledged the right of health professionals under the law to object to certain treatments, but said current guidelines were not clear enough to protect patients’ health care and rights.
Healey said that while the Medical Council of New Zealand had recently updated its Good Practice guidelines, which stipulates that a doctor with a conscientious objection must inform their patients that they have a right to see another doctor, this did not go far enough.
“The New Zealand Medical Association’s Code of Ethics is quite clear that the transfer of care is to be facilitated, but the Medical Council’s Good Practice guidelines only say that the doctor should inform the patient of their right to see another doctor,” she said. “There is no requirement that the doctor with a conscientious objection must provide a referral to another doctor or assist the patient in finding care elsewhere”
ALRANZ believes this is because of the 2010 High Court ruling over the Council’s guidelines on conscientious objection in relation to abortion The ruling came after a group of anti choice doctors took the Council to court to challenge the guidelines because they provided explicit obligations for medical practitioners to deal with patients seeking abortion care. The Court decided in favour of the doctors and the Medical Council chose not to appeal.
“This has left open legal ambiguity about a medical practitioner’s obligations,” said Healey.
ALRANZ has asked for the Council’s legal interpretation of the High Court ruling, but this has not been forthcoming.
“In light of today’s story, we believe that the Medical Council should at the very least provide an explanation about medical practitioners’ obligations in these situations,” said Healey.
“We’d also encourage Ms. Pont to seek redress with the Health and Disability Commissioner. What happened to her should not be allowed to happen to other people seeking reproductive health-care, and we congratulate her on publicising her experience in hopes that others will be aware of their rights”
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Dr Morgan Healey
Mobile: 021 0827 6474
I would agree with your request that the Medical Council should clarify its guidelines. Doctors are entitled to know what the guidelines in respect to requests from patients for contraception are. Patients have a right to know what they can expect from doctors when they request contraception. It is the interest of the whole community that we recognise and protect the right of doctors to practice medicine according to an informed conscience. This is an issue that I believe should have the full support of members of the pro-abortion movement and the pro-life movement.
There is enshrined in law, protection for the conscience of doctors and others who, on conscience grounds, refuse to prescribe contraceptives. Parliament passed the Contraception Sterilisation and Abortion Act in 1977, included section 46 which states that no registered medical practitioner, registered nurse or other person shall be under any obligation to;
“perform or assist in the performance of an abortion or any operation undertaken for the purpose of rendering the patient sterile or assist in the fitting, or supply or administer or assist in the supply or administering, of any contraceptive, or to give any advice relating to contraception.”
It is of the utmost importance that in the practise of medicine we uphold the primacy of conscience. A doctor who does not practice medicine according to his/her informed conscience becomes the most dangerous person in the land. It was the subjugation of conscience that allowed doctors in Nazi Germany to murder disabled children in Germany and to conduct inhumane experiments on prisoners in concentration camps.