15 Jul 2013

Doctor who refused to prescribe pill 'within rights'

4:28 pm on 15 July 2013

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) says a doctor who refused to prescribe the contraceptive pill to a Blenheim woman was within his rights, but that it was wrong to share his views on the matter.

Melissa Pont was denied the pill by her doctor Joseph Lee, who has been working at the Wairau Community Clinic in Blenheim for about a year. She was instead told about other contraception options such as tracking her reproductive cycle.

NZMA chairperson Mark Peterson says the code of ethics allows doctors to not prescribe the pill, but they do have to refer the patient to another doctor. He says it is inappropriate for a doctor to discuss personal ethical views.

The Wairau clinic says Dr Lee does not prescribe the contraceptive pill and refers patients to another GP who then writes the script.

The Medical Council says doctors could face charges if they are found guilty of expressing their personal beliefs to patients, causing them distress.

Medical Council chair John Adams says doctors have the right to hold personal beliefs, but must not influence their clinical judgement or restrict the options available for patients.

Dr Adams says anyone who feels doctors may have breached their medical obligation should make a complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner.

Right to Life support

Anti-abortion group Right to Life supports the doctor's stance. Spokesperson Ken Orr told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Monday that Dr Lee was within his rights to refuse.

"What this doctor is doing, and we commend him for doing it, is recognising that prescribing the contraceptive pill to this woman is not good medicine, it's damaging to her health."

Mr Orr says natural family planning is an effective alternative to contraception and a woman who wants to be certain she will not get pregnant should abstain from sex.