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

  1. Great post Jacqueline!
    I really enjoyed your reference to the Hippocratic Oath. Not only this, but the explanation of the situation at hand was put into greater perspective by your citations in general as well. I definitely agree with you in saying that the letter of apology from Dr. Roi was necessary and important however it most certainly does not take back her ignorance or acts of discrimination. I’m sure she has learned a lot from this experience, and I can only hope that she does not make the same mistakes in the future.

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  2. I really enjoyed how you included your first reaction to the article, as my reaction was quite the same. It didn’t dawn on me until I started to watch the news article that this horrible event really did happen in our own society. Many captions do anticipate more of a story than it leads on, but for this article the title was bang on. I too thought it was astonishing to think how a doctor could deny such a innocent six day old baby healthcare. Including the laws of Michigan was also extremely smart. It allows the reader to grasp the kind of state Michigan is and how the majority of the state feels towards same sex marriage. Being one the 22 states that have the law of protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation, you would think that more people would be accepting of same sex marriages. It astonishes me how Dr. Roi didn’t even have the guts to talk to the couple and tell them she was uncomfortable with providing them with healthcare. Instead she turned the treatment onto another doctor and allowed that doctor to explain to the couple why she was not able to provide healthcare for the family. Furthermore, she was still not able to talk to the couple face to face but instead wrote an apology letter to the couple explaining to them that she was sorry for her actions. Dr. Roi explained that she was “uncomfortable” to provide healthcare for this family after a long consideration. This appalls me to think about because Dr. Roi was being absolutely selfish. She left the Contreras with a doctor that they were unfamiliar with to care for there six day old baby. Dr. Roi left the Contrera family vulnerable and confused, which I don’t agree is fair. Being a same sex couple, I can probably suspect that they come in contact with much discrimination in there every day life already, and this situation did not make their lives any better. As well being new parents they must have been scared, as any new parents are, having your doctor abandon you at the last minute when you are in need is disgraceful just thinking about it.
    I also agree that Roi’s decision as a licensed doctor raises many ethical and moral issues. As a licensed doctor who is suppose to take the Hippocratic Oath, Roi’s duty as a doctor should be to prevent disease of everyone in out society without a single specific exception, even the healthy ones. Leaving Baby Bay without a doctor does not follow this oath at all. The fact that Roi used “personal ethics” to refuse the healthcare of Baby bay instead of saying her honest opinion that she was uncomfortable with the parents sexual orientation was unbelievable. Of course she wouldn’t straight up say that she couldn’t provide health for baby bay because her parents were gay, because she would obviously be questioned or even charged for failing to fulfill the code of medical ethics offered by American Medical association. The fact that she was allowed to find a loophole to refuse the healthcare of baby bay is unthinkable. You did an amazing job with this article, and proved many good points. I also agree that there should be more people like the Contreras to speak out their misfortunes, so this way as you pointed out society will realize the harm that discrimination towards this minority brings.

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  3. I‘ve found your blog post to be very interesting! Even just by beginning your post with your reaction, you pointed out how important news stories such as these are, as it brings these issues into the spotlight and highlights the issues within society that many people may be unaware of. I also thought it was interesting how you pointed out how shocking it is that a doctor of all people would refuse treatment of a patient, especially one so young, simply because of the parents’ sexual orientation.
    Also, as you brought to my attention, the fact that she did not notify the family in advance is another important fact that many might not take into consideration. Not only did this save her from having to face the parents and address the issue herself, it put the parents in an uncomfortable position and left them searching for a doctor they found suitable very last minute, with the well-being of their innocent newborn baby then being put in jeopardy.
    You pose a very good argument when concerning how her actions breached the Code of Medical Ethics.
    While I agree that her letter of apology was important and necessary, the fact that she waited so long to send it, and the fact that she did not notify the parents well in advance are inexcusable in my opinion.
    My final question is this – you stated that more people like the Contreras’s should speak up, and I no doubt agree with that. However, could the heteronormativity that society is subject to be a deterrent? Could it possibly make people afraid to speak up, worried for the harassment that they may face as a result?
    All in all I really enjoyed your blog! I can’t wait to read the next one.
    ~MeggaPengu

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