Friday, November 10, 2006

Where's your Hippocrates now?

I just signed up for Blue Cross health care, and, being the nerd I am, I actually thumbed through my member handbook. In so doing I came across an interesting disclaimer:
Some hospitals and other providers do not provide one or more of the following services that may be covered under your plan contract and that you or your Family Member might need:
  • Family planning;
  • Contraceptive services, including emergency contraception;
  • Sterilization, including tubal ligation at the time of labor and delivery;
  • Infertility treatments; or
  • Abortion.
I knew that some retailers and hospitals allowed their pharmacists to refuse to provide birth control pills or emergency contraception to customers for ethical reasons, but it never occured to me that doctors or even entire hospitals could choose not to offer any family planning or contraceptive services to their patients.

Do health care providers routinely allow their doctors to apply similar categorical prohibitions to other types of health services? For example, are Scientologist doctors allowed to refuse to recommend psychoactive drugs to their mentally ill patients, or refuse to refer such a patient to another doctor who customarily issues those drugs? (Is there such a thing as a Scientologist doctor?) If I were a vegan doctor, could I refuse to issue prescriptions for any drugs that contain gelatin (which is many) or any other animal-derived drugs (including bovine insulin for diabetics)?

I'm very ignorant of the medical world, so I genuinely don't know if there are any analogous policies for other categories of health care like there are for reproductive health services. I can't help but feel, however, that the health care providers and pharmacies pay undue deference to their employees' religious oppositions to patients' basic medical needs.

1 comment:

Tommaso Sciortino said...

There are a lot of hospitals run by religious organizations (like the Catholic Church).