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Answers from our Priests for Life Medical Team

Submitted by: J on  5/13/2010
Answered by: Matthew P. Harrison, M.D.
Topic: I want contraceptives....
I want contraceptives but my doctor won’t prescribe them. Is that illegal or something? He should not be allowed to shove his religion down my throat.

Dear Jill,
This subject as been in the news with regard to the morning after pill and some doctors and pharmacist refusing to dispense birth control pills. By taking the Hippocratic oath, doctors have promised not to prescribe medications for the purpose of causing an abortion, even if asked to do so. They have promised not to do harm to their patients. This was a new concept in Hippocrates’ time because doctors would generally give a patient whatever they asked for. A sense of professionalism and moral character was thus developed in the field of medicine. If a patient comes to me and asks me to cut off their hand, I will not do it even if I possess the skills to do it and do it well. As a doctor, I should only perform procedures, prescribe medication, and refer to other doctors for illness and disease, not to break something that works properly or kill a living human. But if I prescribe birth control pills, insert IUDs, perform abortions or sterilize patients, I will be destroying something which God has made to work just as it is designed. Just as you feel that you have a “right” to get anything you desire from a doctor, the doctor has the “right” to prescribe or not prescribe anything that she medically judges. A doctor is not a gumball machine that dispenses whatever the patient wants. If doctors and pharmacists lose the right to prescribe what they judge best, then there will no longer be the art and practice of medicine, rather it will be the procedure of medicine and patients will no longer be able to trust that doctors are practicing in the patient’s best interest.

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