The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog carried this story Tuesday: California Doctors Can’t Refuse Care to Gays on Religious Grounds. Jacob Goldstein writes:
The state Supreme Court ruled yesterday that doctors can't refuse to treat gays and lesbians, even when doing so goes against their religious beliefs.
Guadalupe Benitez said she was denied fertility treatment because she was gay. The rulings in the case went back and forth as it moved through the courts, but the state’s supremes decided yesterday that a California law that bars businesses from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation trumps the doctors’ right to freedom of religion.
"Thank God," I said to myself. Goodness, a lesbian is still a woman, and still has reproductive capabilities, does she not? If I refuse to treat her, am I doing more damage to the body of Christ and the gospel message, and completely missing a chance to treat her with love and kindness, vs. refusing on the grounds that society apparently will crumble if one more child is raised in a non-traditional family? If I'm going to choose a pro-life stance partly on the grounds that none can say with certainty what quality of life a child will have, that no one can know what decisions he or she will make or how the Lord might use them, then I must also allow that the same things can happen in the life of a child raised by a homosexual.
When I read Goldstein's posting, I instantly remembered fellow Crosswalk blogger Michael Craven's August 2007 posting about whether we as The Church should focus more on being evangelical, or missional. His piece began with an example - also from California:
I came across a small but disturbing story that grabbed my attention. A California pediatrician reportedly refused to treat a baby girl because her mother had tattoos. The doctor, whose name I won’t mention, says “his Christian faith has inspired him to enforce certain standards in his medical practice, and that means no tattoos, no body piercings, and no gum chewing.” The article goes on, “After taking one look at Tasha Childress, who has both tattoos and piercings, [the doctor] asked her and her daughter to leave.” The shunned mother, speaking about her daughter, said, “She had to go that entire night with her ear infection with no medicine because he has his policy; it isn’t right.”
This action deeply troubled me and I hope troubles you as well. However, it doesn’t completely surprise me either...
If the ruling of this week was partly brought about because of this calloused doctor's decision, which couldn't have been an isolated issue, then at least I can feel satisfied that the little girl and her mother did not suffer needlessly.
It's disheartening that we need to get this straight, or have courts decide it for us. Christian doctors, one would like to think, would be some of the most compassionate, most educated, most opportunistic among us. Their personalized chances to reveal their faith literally walk through their doors every day. In fairness, Goldstein's posting makes no mention to which religious faith any offending doctors might adhere. For all we know, Jewish, Hindu, and Islamic doctors might be just as unwilling to treat patients who are gay or have other "moral failings" (although... don't we all fail? Haven't we all sinned? Can you imagine if your youthful indiscretions, God forbid, ever came back to haunt you in the form of an STD or other issue, only to be refused treatment?). We're not talking about doctors who might have issue with performing an abortion or assisted suicide or lethal injection. In those cases, lives are being defended. Here, lives are being discarded.
Withholding medical healing in moral judgment is unconscionable when you consider how flawed the idea of withholding spiritual healing / salvation / the gospel is from Joe Sinner... particularly if he walks in your door and asks for it.
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