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Doctor refuses treatment of same-sex couple’s baby: The Inequality behind the Legal Equality

I was totally shocked by the heading of the news as “Doctor refuses treatment of same-sex couple’s baby” when I first saw it. I doubted that the heading might be exaggerated in some extent in order to attract the readers’ eyes. I am not surprised by the fact that LGBTQ people are still treated unequally by the society, however, it is really hard to imagine how can a doctor, as one of the most respectable and honorable jobs in the world, rejects such a tender young soul who doesn’t even have a sexual orientation yet. However, it turns out that the doctor did decline a treatment with a six-days-old baby without notifying the family in advance by stating the conflict between the treatment and her religious belief. Here is the address for the news: http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/28142401/doctor-refuses-treatment-of-%20same-sex-couples-baby

There might be people saying that what Dr. Vesna Roi did is not illegal and she should not be criticized. The first reason is that even if Roi had copped to her homophobia, Michigan – the state they live, isn’t among the 22 states with laws protectingLGBTQ people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation (see figure 1). Besides, it seems that Roi handled things in an appropriate way because she turned the treatment over to another doctor and also apologized for her behaviour. Nevertheless, Roi’s decision as a licensed doctor, raises an ethical and moral issue.

Fig. 1. Same-sex marriage in the United States

FD1DA4CA-9720-48A0-98F1-6B1B5EDE74B8Sources: CNN, Pew Forum, Human Rights Campaign, Marcum LLP

Here are some reasons stating why Roi’s behavior is a betrayal to Hippocratic Oath, medical ethics. Firstly, as it is stated in the Hippocratic Oath – the principles of which are held sacred by doctors to this day – “I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure; I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm” (Tyson). It can be explicitly identified that it is a doctor’s duty to prevent disease in even the healthy members of our society without a single specific exception. Nevertheless, Roi obviously failed to accomplish the oath by not treating her patients equally regardless of their background. Furthermore, Roi failed to fulfill the Code of Medical Ethics offered by American Medical Association (AMA) because in one of the principles, it is stated that “However, physicians who offer their services to the public may not decline to accept patients because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other basis that would constitute invidious discrimination. Furthermore, physicians who are obligated under pre-existing contractual arrangements may not decline to accept patients as provided by those arrangements” (Opinion 9.12 – Patient-Physician Relationship: Respect for Law and Human Rights). It can be seen that Roi did the opposite of the principles by declining the pre-existing meeting merely based on her parents’ gay sexuality, which became a perfect example of anti-gay discrimination.

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According to Roi’s letter of apology, she is obviously emphasizing that the only reason for her denial of the treatment is that it was against her religious belief. The new bill proposed in Michigan’s state legislature on nondiscrimination protections for the LGBT community “ introduced the ‘religious freedom’ bill specifically as a ‘necessary companion’ to the LGBT rights bills that had already been proposed” (Ford). This action has actually enabled anti-LGBTQ discrimination because it is a perfect excuse for people who don’t want to take the blame of exerting discrimination. However, if we look mor closely into the underlying meaning of religious freedom, it is not appropriate for people like Roi to use this as excuse. Brooker Tucker, one representative from American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan(ACLU)once claimed in his committee that “Religious freedom means the freedom to exercise your individual religious beliefs. It does not mean the ability to impose your beliefs on others nor requiring the state to finance your discrimination against those same taxpayers who do not share your beliefs” (Tucker). Contrarily, Roi is imposing the idea of heteronormativity to The Contrerasas by saying in the letter that “I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient-doctor relationships that I normally do with my patients” (MyFOXDetroit.com Staff). Here, putting her words in another way, it seems she is referring the baby from LGBTQ family as abnormal and only the patients from heterosexual family is normal. The result that The Contrerasas cannot be viewed and treated equally definitely became a stigma for them because it was the doctor that they appreciated and trusted in after the first impression who exerted discrimination against them. Consequently, this notion that religion justifies the discrimination of other human beings is rather contradictory to religion itself and to the concept stated by Cornel West that “justice is what love looks like in public” (West).

Throughout this disappointing and shocking news, people should realize it is a high time for state like Michigan to complete its legislative system, exerting more equality to different groups of people among the society. Also, there should be more people like the Contrerasas to speak out their misfortunes because that’s the only way to let the society realize the harm discrimination brings.

Works Cited

Ford, Zack. “Michigan Advances ‘License To Discriminate’ While LGBT Protections Stagnate.” ThinkProgress RSS. 4 Dec. 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. <http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2014/12/04/3599833/michigan-rfra-discrimination/&gt;.

MyFOXDetroit.com Staff. “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-sex Couple’s Baby.” – Fox 2 News Headlines. 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. <http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/28142401/doctor-refuses-treatment-of- same-sex-couples-baby>.West, Cornel. “Cornel West Quotes.” Cornel West Quotes (Author of Race Matters). Goodreads. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. <http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/6176.Cornel_West&gt;.

“Opinion 9.12 – Patient-Physician Relationship: Respect for Law and Human Rights.” Opinion 9.12 – Patient-Physician Relationship: Respect for Law and Human Rights. American Medical Association. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. <http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/medical-ethics/code-medical-ethics/opinion912.page&gt;.

Tucker, Brooke. “Committee on Families, Children and Seniors.” ACLU of Michigan. , Michigan. 18 Feb. 2015. Lecture.

Tyson, Peter. “The Hippocratic Oath Today.” PBS. PBS, 27 Mar. 2001. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/hippocratic-oath-today.html&gt;.

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3

Homophobia Within Western Societies

***Trigger warning! Pictures depicting horrifying homophobic displays***

After watching this video, in which a 6-day-old baby is refused treatment by a doctor because of her same-sex parents, I wish I could say that I was shocked and outraged, that I had never heard of such a thing happening before. Of course I was outraged. I was also disappointed. But unfortunately I was not shocked. The horrible truth is that occurrences like these are commonplace, especially within the United States.

I suppose that that is a result of our colonial roots. When colonizers from Europe took over and invaded our land, the leaders were mostly heterosexual, white male citizens who, in the long run, supressed the natives and attempted to rid them of their cultural heritage (Alfred). These power structures are still in effect, meaning that straight, able-bodied white men are generally viewed as those with the most power (Aulette & Wittner).

The issue here, and in many cases similar to it, is that social constructions have become the norm. Bodies are no longer simply viewed as bodies; instead, they are assigned a gender, an ethnicity, and a sexuality. These assigned aspects are given different merits, each meaning something different and with preferences for each varying based on geographical location (Aulette & Wittner).

In theory, there is no such thing as sexuality. People are simply genderless bodies who are attracted to other genderless bodies. These bodies do not have ethnicities or races – they are simply human bodies. However, as gender, race and ethnicity are created and applied, sexuality then comes into play. In a heteronormative society such as ours, it is simply expected that everyone you meet is heterosexual– that is, only attracted to others of the opposite sex – unless told otherwise. This creates further problems, as any sexuality deviating from the norm is seen as problematic and unnatural.

In fact, the term homosexuality was coined as a way to categorize gay people as mentally unstable (Harek). This then brings us to problems surrounding medicalization.

Assumptions made by the general public are highly contingent on the information provided to them by doctors and other authority figures. Throughout the 20th century, doctors searched for a “cure” for those who identified as homosexual, implying that it is an illness. This was then reflected in the actions and attitudes of everyone else, who often bullied and at times outright rejected those who they perceived as gay (F.,J).

Even today, in a society in which homosexuality is supposedly accepted, teens are bullied for it, adults are mocked and rejected for it, and total harassment ensues. While this may not always be the case, it far too often is.

There are over 80 countries that have laws restricting same-sex relationships, some of which are even punishable by death (Dann, G.). For those of us in Western countries, it is easy look at these other countries and think “Man, that’s horrible. I’m glad that [insert country here] is not like that. I’m so glad we’re such an accepting society with little to no homophobia left”. Perhaps the country we live in does not have anti-gay laws punishable by death. But even Western countries are not completely accepting. Homophobia is still very real and very present. According to a survey taken in multiple European countries, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States, the US was one of three countries with the highest rate of people claiming that gay sex is wrong (Aulette and Wittner).

Harassment based on sexuality within both public and private domains can be very damaging – there are countless reports of kids committing suicide after being bullied by peers because of their sexuality, of kids being beaten by their parents because of the same reason, of people being harassed on the streets, of being beaten by strangers, of horrifying anti-gay protests, and even of people being murdered because of their sexuality. The threat of these occurrences is worse for a person of colour who is gay, or someone of any colour who is transsexual as well as gay.

Homophobia within all domains threatens the mental and physical well-being of all gay people, both in a mental and physical capacity, and threatens to impact their overall quality of life.

Another issue that leaves me enrages is when people act in a homophobic manner and say “It’s not personal, but…” But what? But yes, it absolutely is personal. Those homophobic words and actions have the potential to have a huge impact on the personal life of people all over the country.

Similarly, when people say “I’m not homophobic, but I don’t support equal rights.” Meaning I have absolutely nothing against you, and I don’t think you’re any less of a person than me, but oh wait yes I do. A statement that declares that someone should not be allowed to get married to another person of the same sex, or should not be able to raise kids because they are the same sex as their partner is absolutely homophobic, despite claims otherwise (Duffy, N.).

The following is an excellent video demonstrating how kids of same-sex parents feel about their family. I would like to see someone watch this video and say that there is something wrong with these kids because they were raised by same-sex parents, or that their needs weren’t being met, or some other horribly pompous remark that is absolutely irrelevant and false (Weber, B.).

http://www.upworthy.com/some-kids-of-gay-parents-tell-us-their-secrets-and-theyre-adorable

Aside from the social implications mentioned above and the threat of violence, homophobia presents further complications when it threatens to leave people without a doctor. Whether it be a gay person, a gay couple, or the children of a gay couple, the risks are clear. It threatens the health of a patient while they are left to look for a doctor who is comfortable treating them.

The biggest issue is a lack of laws supporting gay citizens. Not only are they lacking, there have been multiple attempts to bring in further laws that are, in essence, anti-gay. They state a variety of things, from criminalizing gay relationships to stating that someone who is gay can be refused service from someone whose religion or personal beliefs condemn being gay (Ford Z.).

Further, those laws that do exist are mediocre at best, as can be demonstrated from 3:09 to 3:19 in the original video where it basically says that though in theory doctors cannot refrain from caring for a patient based on his or her sexual orientation, in practice they are able to do so if their personal, religious, or moral beliefs do not support it. That is to say, if a doctor completely supports gay rights they cannot refuse to care for a patient based on their sexuality (which, realistically, a person in this context would not do anyways because they support gay rights), but if that doctor does not support gay rights they are able to refuse because the patients sexuality is not compatible with their personal beliefs (Doctor).

In closing, there is clearly still a large amount of homophobia within Western countries, but especially within the United States.  However, that is not to say that there is no acceptance. Huge strides are made as more and more states within the US gain equal marriage rights. Having discussed the bad, I would now like to leave you with a short video, though only 2 minutes in duration, is full of potential, full of hope, and that ultimately tells it as it is.

http://www.upworthy.com/when-you-have-common-sense-like-this-guy-who-needs-to-argue-with-homophobes-9

Resources

Alfred, T. (n.d.). Canadian Colonialism. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from http://www3.nfb.ca/enclasse/doclens/visau/index.php?mode=theme&language=english&theme=30662&film=16933&excerpt=612357&submode=abou

Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith G. Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2012. 18-120. Print.

Dann, G. (2014, January 1). Worldwide Homophobia: The Case of Sacred Sex and Trinity Western University. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/g-elijah-dann/homophobia-trinity-western-university_b_4770956.html

Doctor refuses treatment of same-sex couple’s baby. (2015, February 18). Retrieved March 14, 2015, from http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/28142401/doctor-refuses-treatment-of-same-sex-couples-baby

Duffy, N. (2014, January 1). Kellie Maloney: I’m not homophobic, but I don’t think same-sex couples should have children. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/08/15/kellie-maloney-im-not-homophobic-but-i-dont-think-same-sex-couples-should-have-children/

F., J. (2009, July 9). Culture, Medicine, and Body. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from http://culturemedicineandbody.blogspot.ca/2009/07/medicalization-of-homosexuality.html

Ford, Z. (2014, February 3). 9 States With Anti-Gay Laws That Aren’t That Different From Russia’s. Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2014/02/03/3241421/9-state-gay-propaganda-laws/

Harek, G. (n.d.). Facts About Homosexuality and Mental Health. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/faculty_sites/rainbow/html/facts_mental_health.htm

Weber, B. (2013, January 1). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://www.upworthy.com/some-kids-of-gay-parents-tell-     us-their-secrets-and-theyre-adorable

3

The Discrimination and Inequalities placed on Same Sex Couples In United States

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Through a couple’s unbelievable story, one can evaluate the disrespect and hardship that same-sex couples experience on a day-to-day basis. Krista and Jami Contreras tells the story of how in October 2014 they took their six day old baby Bay to its first wellness appointment with Dr. Vesna Roi. To their surprise an unfamiliar face, Dr. Karam, welcomed them and informed the couple that she was going to be their new pediatrician. It was further explained that after a long period of reflection and praying, Dr. Roi was unable to care for baby Bay based upon her discomfort on the sexual orientation of the couple. Four months later Dr. Roi wrote a letter the to same-sex couple stating., “I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient-doctor relationship that I normally do with my parents” (myFOXDetroit.com Staff, 2015). It was a shock to both Krista and Jami, as their first thought of Dr. Roi was that they were, “really happy with her. [and] the kind of care she offered [they- liked her personality, [and thought] she seemed pretty friendly and straight up with [them].” Fortunately, Krista and Jami were able to find a substitute pediatrician who accepted them for who they were, a same sex couple. With the disgraceful attitude toward their family the Contreras looked into what they can do about this situation. But to their dismay Dr. Roi, by law, has free choice to treat people in this way as Michigan there are no laws that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families from discrimination. This story illustrates a small fraction of the bigger problem in the United States where U.S law fails to support same sex couples against discrimination and inequality.

Many LGTBQ people experiences bias when receiving healthcare, as they may not be aware of the rules that protect them from discrimination. There are a number of states that have laws that protect LGBTQ patients against differential treatment or refusal of treatment based on sexual orientation and gender identity (Michon, 2015). Twenty-two of the fifty states have laws that prohibit discrimination based on a persons sexual orientation (see table).

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Table 1- Illustration of the states prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. (Michon, 2015)

The American Medical Association (AMA) has taken a positive attitude on physician treatment of gay, lesbian and transgendered patients. In its ethics opinions, which serve as a model for how all physicians and their employees should practice medicine, the AMA states, “Physicians who offer their services to the public may not decline to accept patients because of race, color religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other basis that would constitute invidious discrimination” (Michon, 2015). The AMA further states “will work to reduce the health disparities suffered because of unequal treatment of minor children and same sex parents in same sex households” (ibid).

Unfortunately, some doctors have found a way to refuse patients of same sex couples without breaking the law. Parallel to the above-mentioned law, the AMA has another law that states doctors can refuse treatment if it is incompatible with their personal, religious or moral belief. This law enables homophobic healthcare providers to discriminate LGTBQ families. Doctors can say they have personal, religious or moral beliefs not to care for a gay patient, but realistically they are refusing to care for a patient based on the patient’s sexual orientation. Similar to the Contreras case, Dr. Roi was allowed to refuse healthcare to baby Bay because of her own personal beliefs. This makes it difficult for LGTBQ families such as the Contreras, to fight against this type of discrimination because the AMA laws protect doctors.

Under the Universal Declaration of Human rights Article 25 (1) it states that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services (The universal declaration of human rights, 2015). For LGTBQ families who do not have the freedom or ability to find another doctor that will care for them, it may mean that they will not get the proper healthcare they need. It is disgraceful that people can be denied the right to equitable care and have a healthy quality of life, based on their sexual orientation.

Fortunately North America does not implement compulsory heterosexuality. The concept of a heterosexual relationship is decreasingly becoming the social norm, a change in a positive direction. More countries need to embrace this change, and accept those who express themselves in the LGTBQ community without discrimination. There needs to be a new law passed that gives no choice or reasons for doctors to discrimination against same sex couples, and allow everyone the equal and optimal healthcare.

Dana Nessel is one among many who are advocating for equality for everyone. She is one of the attorneys in the Michigan same sex marriage case that is now headed to the United States Supreme Court. Nessel refers to the legislation called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act now in the State Senate, which opponents say would allow people to discriminate based on their moral or religious beliefs. If everyone followed Nessel’s example, LGTB people would feel equal and safe in our world.

In conclusion, this story illustrates how people can find any loophole to legally discriminate against same sex couples. It is sad to think that healthcare providers would refuse treatment to any individual based on their sexual orientation. In this situation, heartbreak goes out to Bay. She is only six days old and has already faced discrimination. It is to hope that when baby Bay grows older, the discrimination towards her and her mothers will dissipate. In that world baby Bay can grow up to be a healthy individual and treated equally, as everyone should be.

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Work Cited

Michon, Kathleen. “Health Care Antidiscrimination Laws Protecting Gays and Lesbians | Nolo.com.” Nolo.com. Nolo Law for All, 2015. Web. 16 Mar. 2015. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

MyFoxDetroit.comstaff. “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-sex Couple’s Baby.” – Fox 2 News Headlines. MyFoxDetroit.com, 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 09 Mar. 2015. http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/28142401/doctor-refuses-treatment-of-same-sex-couples-baby

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UDHR, Declaration of Human Rights, Human Rights Declaration, Human Rights Charter, The Un and Human Rights.” UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2015. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

3

Intersecting Oppressions at an Intersection in New York City

After having recently watched the beautiful black trans actress Laverne Cox (famous for her debut on the hit Netflix series, Orange Is The New Black) describe her own experiences with street harassment, my understanding of the term intersectionality has greatly expanded. She is the first person who I have seen effectively and personally connect with her audience to address the intersecting identities and oppressions that she, among many other black trans women, has faced. Cox first explains a certain instance in which she had to silence herself at a crosswalk. Two men on the street approached her and began arguing about her racial and gender identity. Her black trans body became an object of their game. They could not agree on a label that suited their comfort level, so instead of quitting there, one of the men (appearing to be Latino) approached her and said, “You’re not an ‘n-word’ are you?” while the other man (appearing to be black) assured his friend that she is, while refusing his suggestion of her being a ‘b-word’.

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On the surface, most educated people would understand that such a conversation is riddled with oppression. To begin with, these men believed they were entitled to have an opinion on Laverne’s gender identity and expression. Their chosen derogatory words made them out to appear gender normative and heterosexual. Because of this, their interaction with Laverne came from a place of cisgender privilege, wherein they believed they had a place to pass judgment about her sexual and gender identities. Moreover, they scrutinized her black body with the use of extremely inappropriate language. Cox goes on to explain that most of the oppression she faces on the street, comes from black male bodies. At first, many would be offended by her apparent lack of solidarity for her fellow black people. Yet, she explains, ” I believe that a lot of black folks feel that there is this historic emasculation that has been happening in white supremacy of black male bodies. I think a lot of black folks dealing with a lot of post-traumatic stress see trans, my trans women’s body, and feel that I’m the embodiment of this historic emasculation come to life,” (Cox, 2014).

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Through this explanation, I began to grasp the roots of not only the oppression that Laverne faces every day, but oppressive systems in general. She goes on to explain her belief that people who oppress, are suffering from their own forms of pain therefore, try to release it by passing it on to others. She addresses Cornell West’s quote that reads, “Justice is what love looks like in public”. This shows her strength, as she has chosen to address the privileged and oppressed forces acting against her in an extremely inclusive way. Her message remains powerful for everyone; rather than trying to approach this topic from a stop oppression standpoint, she approaches it from a place that urges people everywhere to start justice. She does not exclude others from her conversation, just because of her unique positionality. She should be highly commended for her way with words and the power behind her messages as they leave her lips to be released into a society that is overwhelmed with white supremacy, heteronormativity, patriarchy and the limitations of the gender binary model.

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From a critical point of view, her speaking from a personal place makes it difficult for her to directly address her privilege as an able-bodied member of the upper class. So she has not covered all of the bases. Her media and film/television exposure in itself is a huge privilege for a body like hers in this day and age. She has been pedestalled by the racialized members of the LGBTQ+ community. So, some may argue that she did not take advantage of her exposure for bigger picture issues and perspectives. However, with an opportunity like this, I believe she made the necessary decisions in order for her message to reach as many people as possible. She kept it inclusive enough to remain personal, rather than speaking on behalf of groups she with which she cannot identify. As the existence of trans people becomes more widely recognized in North America, I believe that speeches like this will address the intersecting nature of oppressions from a more complex and challenging angle. As a figurehead of bodies like her own, she ensures to mention the stories of Islan Nettles and Amanda Milan. And for this, I recognize her efforts to remain objective. Her words do not suggest she is looking for pity. She is speaking from her heart, in order to promote love and inclusion.

– The Funky Phoenix

Works Cited:

Cox, Laverne. “Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It).” Everyday Feminism. N.p., 07 Dec. 2014. Web. 14 Mar. 2015. <http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/laverne-cox-intersection-what-to-do/&gt;.