The NZ doctors that don't trust women

| Posted by Bel | The time is 4.32pm here in Wellington NZ |

A commenter on this recent post brought up the issue of when a doctor makes a judgement call, rather than giving medical advice.

Patients are in a vulnerable position when they enter a doctor's clinic, whether it be for the 'flu or a pregnancy scare, or a weird spotty rash that came up after gardening. It's our own bodies doing something we don't really understand and we're relying on someone else to tell us what to do next. Doctors are in such a position of authority, and we have to trust that all their years of training, and ability to pronounce the labels on prescription bottles, means that they have our best interests at heart.

There are times when a doctor's own interests overrule though. Rather than presenting a patient with the most relevant medical options for their situation, they may withhold information or services because of their own judgements. Not professional ones, but personal.

Storytime, folks: I went to my doctor to get the emergency contraceptive pill (ECP, or "morning after pill"). Yes, I know, you can get it at most pharmacies, sometimes even for free (although only recently in some regions, such as the Manawatu, where it has been SPOILER ALERT hugely popular).

But I am on medication for epilepsy and that messes with all kinds of other drugs, even just simple stuff like that panadol with caffiene in. Same as how plenty of anti-depressants can't be mixed and matched with just anything off the shelf.

Anyway, I decide to be comprehensive in my paranoia and make the doctor's appointment. It turns out to be a locum (what is with them, Valleygurl??) and after explaining why I'm there (*blush*), have her tell me that she won't prescribe me the contraceptive. Because of her morals. Which apply to her. But she decided that in this case, they also applied to me. And the medical services that I needed. She told me I should go elsewhere and suggested a nearby pharmacy that would be likely to prescribe the ECP. I wasn't charged for the appointment.

The Medical Council of New Zealand is revising their guidelines to ensure that patients are not caught up in doctors' personal conflicts. Earlier this year, it specifically revised its standards for doctors, a guide called "Good Medical Practice", to state that women who come to a doctor expressing doubt about continuing with a pregnancy must be given objective information on all available options - regardless of what your own beliefs are on the matter. If your personal judgement call is not in support of her choice, you still must act as a professional and inform her of her medical service options.

It's on page 4 of this pdf entitled "Beliefs and Medical Practice" if you want to read it yourself.

This level-headed and pragmatic approach to a sensitive situation has, of course, been trashed by the conservative anti-choice camp. But most scarily, it is doctors themselves that are against these guidelines. A High Court application was filed for a review of the standards, so that doctors could, on grounds of conscience, could not just refuse to prescribe contraceptives or referrals for abortions, but also withhold any information or advice on the subject.

The NZ Herald states that one of the doctors involved in this is Dr Mary English. As in, wife of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Bill English. Great. Chances of this group of over-opininated retrogrades having influence at a high level of government, then...? Ughhh.

Mrs & Mr English, looking glam, plotting to take over your uterus.

If you have not yet had your fill of fun pro-choice reading, then check out Boganette's recent post, triggering an email stating: "I saw your comment and how can you be pro-abortion? Your infertile. Doesn't that make you not want abortions?" (And high five for the Handmaid's Tale reference. I just read that book and DAMN it's good.)

7 thoughts on “The NZ doctors that don't trust women”

  1. FFS. Any doctor who is going to refuse to treat or advise a patient objectively (which I of course ideally think should not be allowed) should have to have a disclaimer stating this on the front door to their surgery, and on every single form of advertising/ contact listing they do. That is totally unacceptable.

  2. A good reminder to ask around to see who your friends recommend for quality medical service, and to take control and get a 'second opinion' if need be...

    I grew up having a lovely doctor whom my mother had known for decades, and it was a real shock when I was living in another city and realised the doctor I saw there was actually rubbish.

    There's such an assumption that they know what they're talking about - especially since you have to shell out so much money to get their advice - and to decide that their treatment isn't up to scratch is a real turning point.

  3. That is fucking bollocking bollocks. What a stuck up, moralist, stupid cow. Ah the rage such an act of priggishness engenders in me is seriously massive.

    Plus the AMOUNT of MONEY they ask for... well. Look, I'm ok with Doctors getting a good salary, if they save lives and IF they do their job objectively. They do NOT have the fucking right to deny me my options though.

    Dr Mary English can jam it up her jaxy. I'm not sure where exactly that is but still. That's where she can stick it.

    Small (ok, ok, big) surge of rage over this is why it is so important to have knowledge of what you can access to help you herbally. For instance, there are some great things out there which do not entail the humiliation and pricyness of going to a doctor. To sound like a complete hippy...

    Last thing, ok you had a 'slip up' with sex so you needed an ECP. Why didn't that silly locum dickwad realise you were being RESPONSIBLE and MATURE by taking control over your own body and your decisions.
    *SIGH* 'holds head in hands' Don't they train Doctors in fucking empathy any more?

  4. Crappy update:

    The the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) just yesterday passed a resolution which means doctors and health care workers in the EU can deny women an abortion on the grounds of "conscience".

    The resolution was originally titled "Women’s access to lawful medical care: the problem of unregulated use of conscientious objection", but after pressure from anti-choice advocates, it was re-written and re-titled "The right to conscientious objection in lawful medical care" and thus those who first submitted it had to attempt to vote it down.

  5. Hey Bel can I post this on the Wellington Young Feminists page in order to start a conversation about good doctors/clinics?

  6. Sure, Meg :)

    As far as I'm aware there's been no outcome on their High Court obstructions, but it does mean that in the meantime, those revised guidelines have been held off... Boo.