Thursday, August 31, 2006

In the news: Medical practices organized around faith

WaPo has a piece about the growing number of medical practices that provide care according to the faiths of the practitioners. Mostly, this plays out in the context of family planning. Snip:
[The practices] tailor the care they provide to the religious beliefs of their doctors, shunning birth-control and morning-after pills, IUDs and other contraceptive devices, sterilizations, and abortions, as well as in vitro fertilization. Instead, doctors offer "natural family planning" -- teaching couples to monitor a woman's temperature and other bodily signals to time intercourse.

Proponents say the practices allow doctors to avoid conflicts with patients who want services the practitioners find objectionable, as well as to provide care that conforms with many patients' own values. The approach, they say, provides an alternative to mainstream medicine's reliance on drugs and devices that, they argue, carry side effects and negatively affect couples' relationships. 'I want to practice my faith,' said John T. Bruchalski, the obstetrician-gynecologist who started Tepeyac. 'I'm not interested in pushing it on other people. But this allows me to practice medicine without having to do something that I wouldn't see as positive or healthy.'

Critics, however, worry that the practices are segregating medicine along religious lines and may be providing inadequate care by failing to fully inform patients about their options. The critics are especially alarmed about the consequences in poor or rural areas with few alternatives.

Hypothetically, if a patient knew exactly what she was forgoing by going to one of these practices, then fine, I guess. But is it possible to get a patient's informed consent in advance to all of the choices the doctor has already made about what is appropriate for that patient?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with a practitioner of any discipline to have a conscience about anything of a moral issue and not want to do certain procedures or whatever that a client wants?