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Introduction

Katy has just discovered she is pregnant and thinks it could be over three months since her last period. She is distraught and feels there's no way she could cope with a baby in her life and she might 'do something stupid'. She wants to be referred for a termination as soon as possible. Dr Newell has a conscientious objection to abortion and does not want to refer Katy, as she feels that by doing so, she would be complicit in the termination.

(The story so far...)

Katy consulted Dr Newell two months ago about panic attacks brought on by drug taking. She was prescribed a short course of tranquillisers and has been seeing a counsellor to help manage her risky behaviour.

Katy

Katy

I don't know how I let this happen! I hadn't realised things had got so out of control. I don't know what I'll do if my Dad finds out, my life just won't be worth living!

Dr Newell

Dr Newell

Calm down Katy, I'll try and do what I can. But I'm afraid I'm not willing to refer you for a termination myself - it would be against my religious beliefs.

Katy

Katy

Wh..? I don't understand, it's legal isn't it?* I mean what does that mean? Dr Newell you have to help me!

* Katy does not live in Northern Ireland, where the Abortion Act 1967 does not apply.

What should the doctor do...? (Select A,B or C)

A

Refer Katy to another doctor who she knows does not share her conscientious objection?

B

Explain to Katy that she believes abortion is morally wrong and she won't play any part in killing an innocent child?

C

Tell Katy she won't refer her, but she is entitled to seek a referral from another doctor; give her the details of the local family planning clinic and the other GP practice in the area?

Dr Newell

See what the doctor did

Dr Newell explains to Katy that referring her for abortion conflicts with her religious beliefs but is careful not to say anything that might upset Katy or make her think she is judging her for her decision to terminate the pregnancy. She gives her the details of the other GP practice in the area and also tells her about the Family Planning Clinic.

References

You must explain to patients if you have a conscientious objection to a particular procedure. You must tell them about their right to see another doctor and make sure they have enough information to exercise that right. In providing this information you must not imply or express disapproval of the patient's lifestyle, choices or beliefs. If it is not practical for a patient to arrange to see another doctor, you must make sure that arrangements are made for another suitably qualified colleague to take over your role.17
(Good Medical Practice paragraph 52)

You must not express your personal beliefs (including political, religious and moral beliefs) to patients in ways that exploit their vulnerability or that are likely to cause them distress.17
(Good Medical Practice paragraph 54)

You must not unfairly discriminate against patients or colleagues by allowing your personal views to affect your professional relationships or the treatment you provide or arrange. You should challenge colleagues if their behaviour does not follow this guidance, and follow the guidance in paragraph 25c if the behaviour amounts to abuse or denial of a patient's or colleague's rights.
(Good Medical Practice paragraph 59)

 
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