Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rape Victim Arrested and Denied Contraception on Religious Grounds

This story is one that is hauntingly similar to what occurred to another rape victim that I wrote about a few weeks earlier.

A young woman was raped, and reported to a rape crisis center for evaluation and help.  She was given  an emergency contraception (presumably "Plan B pill," from the description given.  With this type of emergency contraception, one pill is taken as soon as possible, and the second is taken 12 hours later.) and was told to report the rape to police.  Once she did so, she was arrested for an outstanding warrant for 2 non-violent crimes (Failure to appear and failure to provide restitution).  Once at the county jail, her second contraceptive pill was confiscated, and not provided to her in the time frame it was instructed to be taken by her physician and the manufacturer.  The reason?  It was against the guard's religious beliefs.

There are two issues with this situation.  First, if women who are raped and immediately arrested after reporting their rape to police, for outstanding warrants, women with warrants are going to stop reporting their rapes.  This is dangerous.  I understand the purpose of warrants and the necessity of them, but I would argue that there must also be some discretion used.  Which did not occur in this case. If you lived in this community, who would you rather have on the street, a woman who failed to appear in court, and failed to pay money that she owed, or a rapist?

The second part of this that I take issue with, is of course, the witholding of a prescribed and legally obtained medication from an imprisoned person.  This is simply unacceptable on multiple levels.  This guard was not a medical doctor, and even if she were, the patient should always have the final say in their medical care.  No one, physician, jail guard, police officer, judge, clergy, or anyone else, should be forcing any other person to receive, or fail to receive healthcare that they want.

This is yet again, another example of how one person's religion has intruded upon another person's right to autonomy and self-determination.  As I have stated several times, I am not anti-religion, indeed many of my closest friends are devoutly religious, but I am against one person's religion being the basis for decisions made about another person's life.  This is inappropriate, unconstitutional, and simply should not be tolerated.

What are your thoughts?  Leave me comment below on what you think about this or other situations like this that you know of.

Thanks and take care!

-The Atheist Physician

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Happy Atheist Solidarity Day!

Today, June 21st, is Atheist Solidarity day.  It is the day when we take the time to remember the hardships individuals have had to endure for becoming openly Atheist.  It is also a time to celebrate how far we have come in the world.  Religion, as a source of concrete conclusions and unquestionable authority, is becoming less and less influential throughout the world.  Though I'm sad to admit that this does not appear to be the case in the United States, my hope is that we too will evolve our thinking as the rest of the world has begun to.  The U.S. remains one of the most religious nations, a fact that can make being an  open Atheist rather difficult.  So, today goes to you, those that live as open Atheists, and to those of you struggling to come out as Atheist.  We are always here to help you if you need it.

In addition to this rather short post, I would like to apologize for not having written as much in the last 2  weeks.  I have had an extremely busy two weeks preparing for licensing exams, but I have some good topics I want to write about, so expect them soon!

Thanks for reading, and take care!

-The Atheist Physician

Sunday, June 3, 2012

When Religion Goes Too Far, When Religion Harms

A few days ago, and absolutely despicable event took place.  A physician, did not act as a physician, on religious grounds.

A 24 year old girl was raped.  Unlike the majority of rapes, which are horribly underreported (According to the group Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) 54% of rapes go unreported), this brave young woman did exactly what she should have done.  She went to a place that should always provide help regardless of your situation.  No, she didn't go to her local church, she went to the nearest emergency room.  What she got there, though, was a little less than healing treatment, she might as well have gone to a local church.  First, she was told there was nothing they could do, because the hospital did not currently have a specialized nurse (called a SANE nurse or Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) that dealt with situations of rape, and are trained in properly obtaining evidence (like DNA) and documenting the exam for future use in prosecuting a case against the offender.

This is where the first intervention on behalf of the physician should have taken place.  The ER physician,  if not properly trained in completing exams and obtaining specimens for evidence, should have made an effort in finding the nearest ER that did have a SANE nurse on hand.  There are numerous resources to help with this, for which every ER physician should be intimately aware.  For example, the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) is a well known organization that provides training for SANE nurses, provides 24/7 emergency counselors for victims of rape and other abuse, and can provide transportation to the nearest facility that can provide a SANE nurse's service.  Instead of helping this young woman, the ER physician essentially threw up her hands and said, well,
there's nothing we can do.

There was plenty that could have been done.

Next, the young woman, thinking logically, asked whether emergency contraceptive was available.  This is important, as the sooner it is used, the more effective it is.  Once again, a situation in which the ER physician had the opportunity to help, and in fact, should have been the one to bring up the issue of emergency contraceptive, did nothing.  Actually, she did more than nothing.  She told this young woman, "I will not give you emergency contraceptives because it goes against my beliefs." Against your beliefs?  Who is this self righteous ER physician kidding?  Her beliefs are of absolutely no consequence in this situation.  What is of consequence, is this young woman's health, safety, and future.  All of which are vitally impacted during those first few minutes and hours after her rape.
Interestingly enough, though the YWCA is a Christian organization, they have supported a number of initiatives to increase access to emergency contraceptives.  So where did the misguided belief's of this ER physician come from, if some religious organizations support access to emergency contraceptives?

This saddens and angers me for several reasons.  First and foremost, this woman was treated in such an undignified way, after such a traumatic event occurred to her.  Instead of concerning herself with her own beliefs, perhaps this ER physician should have more correctly concerned herself with the care of this young woman.  I'm certain if this physician were raped, she would likely feel differently about emergency contraceptive use.  Second, this physician, through her actions, has called into question the public's ability to trust physicians.  This is most unfortunate.  It leaves the public wondering, if their physician is willing to compromise care on emergency contraceptives, what other areas are their physician's cutting corners, that they don't even know about, and what are their physician's goals and objectives?  Do they have my care and my best interests in mind?  This cannot be tolerated.  There are very few professions that carry such a responsibility as medicine.  I never want my patients to questions whether or not I'm providing them with proper care, based upon pure motives.  After knowing a patient for less than 10 minutes, I have them telling me about events in their life that they don't even share with their own spouses.  I have their absolute trust, and my behavior should never make them call my trust into question.  When one physician betrays the trust of their patient, it hurts all physicians and their ability to form a good "doctor-patient-relationship."

In my opinion, that ER physician has no business being a physician.  She needs to consider another line of work.  Perhaps working as a counselor at an anti-abortion clinic, if she feels that strongly about only parts of her religious beliefs.  After all, doesn't the Bible, the Torah, and the Quran preach to care for the sick, they do not differentiate between the "deserving and undeserving sick."
Louis Pasteur, one of the most famous physicians to have ever lived, once said: "One does not ask of one who suffers: What is your country and what is your religion? One merely says: You suffer, that is enough for me, you belong to me, and I shall care for your."  I try to live by this when I am treating my patients, and I have found that it has never once done me wrong.  I would urge that ER physician to listen to Dr. Pasteur, his wisdom stretches far beyond the time in which he lived.

I can only hope that young woman found a true physician.  Someone who would care for her without treating her like she was dirty or immoral.

Take care,
-The Atheist Physician