Do no harm?

Last week, USA Today reported on the growing trend of doctors’ refusing to treat patients for religious reasons. The phenomenon goes beyond abortion and fetal tissue research and includes such matters as prescribing Viagra or performing in-vitro fertilization. At issue in many of these cases is gay discrimination:

The collision between religious freedom and rules against discrimination occurs when physicians perform procedures selectively, offering them to some patients but withholding them from others, says Jill Morrison, legal counsel to the National Women’s Law Center.

This year in a case generating wide interest, the California Supreme Court will hear a first-of-its-kind lawsuit: fertility treatment denied to a lesbian.

In Washington state, a gay man recently settled out of court with a doctor who refused to prescribe him Viagra.

“He told me he had prescribed certain drugs for married people, but he wasn’t going to do that for me,” Jonathan Shuffield says. “It was very painful having the trust broken between my doctor and me.”

Patrick Gillen, legal counsel for the Thomas More Law Center, a Michigan-based public interest law firm that defends religious freedom, says the political clout of gays and lesbians has led to a situation that “is ripe for conflict.” Gillen says no doctors should be required to perform procedures that violate their religious faith, especially “if the patients can get the treatment elsewhere.”

The whole story is here, and seems to be a sidebar for a related story on the California court case, reported here.

Edited to add: This is the topic in the Washington Post’s “On Faith” feature this week. Check it out here.

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