The case of the Michigan pediatrician who declined to take as a patient the newborn child of two lesbians moms, instead referring the family to another doctor in her practice, is being raised as a picture perfect example of why anti-discrimination laws are needed. As Dr. Vesna Roi explained in her letter to Jami and Krista Contreras, “After much prayer following your prenatal, I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients. I felt that was not fair to the two of you or to Bay [the baby]. I felt that you deserved that type of relationship and I know you could get that with Dr. Karam.”
This is a grayer area than forcing bakers, caterers and photographers to provide expressive/artistic services in celebration of same-sex weddings. Access to medical care strikes deep chords. In a better world, Dr. Roi wouldn’t have felt this way. But with an anti-discrimination statute, would the Conteras and their baby be better off with a surly and resentful pediatrician? But what about families who don’t have medical options?
More. In the end, medical care should not be denied on the basis of minority status. Whether this requires government intervention is quite another matter, and there is a convincing case that the better response is censure by the American Medical Association, which holds that:
“A physician may decline to undertake the care of a patient whose medical condition is not within the physician’s current competence. However, physicians who offer their services to the public may not decline to accept patients because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other basis that would constitute invidious discrimination.”
That said, in a non-emergency situation where there are choices, why would you want the doctor who doesn’t want you?
Added: Censure by a licensing organization brings social stigma and can limit practice opportunities. To some, apparently, that’s insufficient and the power of the state must be brought in through anti-discrimination statutes to impose confiscatory financial penalties (which if unpaid lead to the threat of incarceration). Sorry, I don’t feel that the iron fist of the state is necessary in this and similar situations.
Added: For the record, the health practitioners’ credentials at Eastlake Pediatrics include Vesna L. Roi, D.O, and Melinda E. Karam, M.D. So Dr. Roi is not a medical doctor but Dr. Karam is. This makes the demand that Dr. Roi be the primary pediatrician—in lieu of an actual M.D.—seem even more strained.
(And if that is not the objective of the lesbian moms, as some responded indignantly, then what is—that Dr. Roi not be able not to take their child as a patient, which is somehow different from insisting that Dr. Roi be their child’s doctor?)
A further note: The American Osteopathic Association covers sexual orientation in its anti-discrimination provisions, but Dr. Roi does not list the AOA among her associations. She does list the American Academy of Pediatrics, which also prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in its ethics code. I’m betting Dr. Roi wishes she had just said she was too busy to take on new patients.