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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Contact information:

Dr Morgan Healey
Mobile: 021 0827 6474
Email: safeandlegal@gmail.com