Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Canada and "conscience clauses." Arrrgh.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I occasionally get on the topic of health care, conscience clauses and really annoying, religious dingbats who like to use their positions of authority in medically-related professions to moralize to everyone else.

When it comes to Canada, I'm looking here at Bill C-307, which reads:

An Act to amend the Criminal Code to prevent health care practitioners from being coerced into taking part in medical procedures that offend the practitioner’s religion or belief that human life is inviolable.

Since said bill has only been through first reading as of December, 2004, we can safely assume that it's in no danger of actually going anywhere but, hey, you never know so it's worth taking a quick look at it to see just what sort of badly-written piece of crap it really is. I could slowly and lovingly eviscerate this piece of swill but I'll just take a couple shots at it and let you do the rest.

Under Section 1, read the definition of "health care practitioner" carefully. First, it explicitly includes a dentist, of all things. Now, while we can all agree that a dentist is, by all accounts, a health care practitioner, it's not at all clear how anyone in that profession would run afoul of someone's religious beliefs, unless they're practising abortions on the side or something. How odd.

Even odder is that the vocation of pharmacist is not mentioned explicitly, which is of course the one vocation that seems to be causing the most grief these days, what with the occasional pharmacist being a total dickwad and refusing to fill prescriptions for things like birth control or emergency contraception. So why does the bill refer to dentists but not pharmacists?

Taking this one step further, would pharmacists even fall under that general definition of "health care practitioner"? Read the definition closely -- are pharmacists considered health care "providers" if their contribution is restricted to simply filling prescriptions? Does that count as a health care service "provider"? One can argue that either way, but one certainly can't argue that pharmacists are not mentioned by profession anywhere in that bill.

On top of all that, it's interesting to see what, if that Bill passed, would constitute a criminal offense. Consider the following alleged criminal act:

(2) Every one is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction who, being an employer or the agent of an employer,

(a) refuses to employ a health care practitioner, ...

because the health care practitioner is, or is believed to be, unwilling to take part in, directly or in an advisory capacity, any medical procedure that offends a tenet of the practitioner’s religion, or the belief of the practitioner that human life is inviolable.

So let's say this Bill was interpreted to cover pharmacists. Imagine that I own a small pharmacy and I have an opening for a pharmacist. I get an applicant who, I discover quickly, because of her religious beliefs, would refuse to fill any prescriptions for birth control or emergency contraception.

That doesn't work for me -- I have a small staff and I just can't afford to hire someone who can't do the entire job, period. Under Bill C-307, if I refuse to hire her for that reason, I've just broken the law.

Anyway, the above is just for openers. Feel free to weigh in. Make yourself useful. What the heck am I paying you for, anyway? Oh, wait ...


Anonymous said...

The small pharmicist (if there are any actually left) case is a good example of why this bill is wrong.

It would be like making it illegal for someone to refuse to hire a bodyguard who was a pacifist.

The only redeeming quality is the limiting of "tenet" of religion to essentially that life (even a few cells) is sacred. At least there would be no refusing to provide care to, say, gays.

CC said...

Excuse me?