My Needs vs. Yours


In 2000, Guadalupe Benitez, after receiving fertility drugs for 11 months at the only clinic to provide infertility treatment under her insurance plan, was denied insemination.

A few weeks after California found the ban on same-sex marriages to be unconstitutional. the State’s Supreme Court found itself in a legal battle over gay rights... In 2000, Guadalupe Benitez received fertility drugs for 11 months at the only clinic to provide infertility treatment under her insurance plan, but she was then denied artificial insemination. She's a lesbian and her doctors wanted to pick and choose. Dr. Christine Brody, a fundamentalist Christian physician apparently warned Ms. Benitez at the outset that she wouldn't brook with the 'creating life' part of anyone's care. The doctor and her partner, Dr. Douglas Fenton, cited their personal religious beliefs about gay people. It is noteworthy that they referred the patient out and it is consistent that they refuse to provide such care to unmarried heterosexual women (Benitez v. North Coast Women's Medical Care Group, 131 Cal.Rptr.2d 364, 367 (2003).

Questions for consideration:

  1. Were they violating California law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation?
  2. Can you defend the doctor who acts out of conscious or who makes it clear that they have concerns about how the children will fare?
  3. While the Supreme had not dealt with this issue before, in 2004 it ordered that Catholic Charities of CA, despite its religious objection to contraception, must provide birth control coverage to its employees. Is this a similar argument to the extent that it will force doctors’ hands?
  4. The Lazarus question: “Give me your tired, your poor... the wretched refuse of your teeming shore” What is society’s responsibility vis a vis families on the dole having tons of kids? Repeated pregnancies that result in severely compromised children? The support of pregnancies in illegals?

Below, some physician reader reactions to the aforementioned discussion.

From: Gilbert R.

Sent: Thursday, May 29, 2008 9:18 AM

Subject: The needs of one individual are not a moral claim on another’s resources

I feel no one has a right to obtain health care--or any other value--at another's expense. Here’s from a member of my [Ed comment: Academic medical center] group: “The government has no right to force one party to bear the burden of paying for the health insurance of someone who lacks it; that is an injustice. In other words, the need of one individual is not a moral claim on the resources of another. Those who can't afford to pay for their own health care should rely on private charity, not on government compulsion. Let those who wish, help fund the uninsured. Furthermore, asserting that such coercion is necessary to make medical care more affordable is wrong, if not outrageous. It's the government's longtime interference in the market that has caused medical care costs to skyrocket and it’s time end to the government's interference in our practice of medicine.

From: Fredrick H, MD, PhD, JD

Sent: Thu 5/29/2008 12:54 PM


I agree that no one has a moral right to demand medical care from others. But I also insist that Government - the people as a whole - has a right to decide that they will all share the risks of illness, and that individuals then don't have the right to refuse, unless they choose to leave the jurisdiction of that government. And I don't believe that any country that lays the slightest claim to being called 'civilized' can refuse to do so.

The question is whether a doctor who will willingly treat all comers, can refuse to treat one person because of religious beliefs that are, by definition, irrational.

So, we have a battle between two of society's sacred cows - tolerance of irrational religious beliefs and tolerance of divergent sexual orientation and behavior.

One major issue, which I didn't see addressed in the article, was whether the clinic was state-run. If the doctors were paid by the State, I think the case is over - they need to treat all comers without a medical contraindication if they want to retain their job.

If the doctors were in private practice, the presumption is that a doctor may choose his or her patients, except in an emergency. However, even there, there are limits--hey can't refuse treatment for improper reasons, like race, national origin, etc.

What are your thoughts?

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