Recently, one of CNBC’s Donny Deutsch’s “Big Ideas” was to interview Darlene Bender, whose 20-year-old daughter was raped and later denied emergency contraception by her ER doctor at Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon, PA last month. Deutsch cannot believe that the doctor would put his personal beliefs before those of his patient-that he had the “audacity to take that decision [to provide emergency contraception] upon himself.” You go, Donny.
Dr. Donna Harrison, from the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists joined the dialogue and was introduced as someone “offensive” to Donny because she stands behind Dr. Gish’s refusal to provide emergency contraception to the young woman. Dr. Harrison asserted that physicians have a right to refuse to prescribe medications and that requiring doctors to do so would be “against the Hippocratic oath.” Her Hippocratic oath included a promise not to have sex with her patients, a promise not to give a drug which would kill someone, and a promise not to destroy human life before birth. Her oath did not seem to involve treating patients with whom she disagrees inhumanely.
For some reason, the last bit didn’t sit well with me (I’m sure you can’t imagine why). According to Wikipedia (the most succinct explanation of the Hippocratic Oath):
Several parts of the oath have been removed or re-shaped over the years. . . as the social, religious, and political importance of medicine has changed. Most schools administer some form of oath, but the great majority no longer use the ancient version, which praised non-Abrahamic deities, advocated teaching of men but not women, and forbade general practitioners from surgery, abortion, euthanasia, or abuse of the prescription pad.
The actual oath may not have even been written by Hippocrates; instead, it has been attributed to the Pythagoreans of fourth century BC.
It sounds to me like you can swear on whatever you want to swear on-the ancient Hippocratic Oath, the Declaration of Geneva, Dr. Harrison’s anti-choice oath, or the Oath of Lasagna (and no, I’m not just trying to be funny with a reference to a favorite cartoon orange cat, this is a real oath!). Dr. Harrison has held true to the anti-choice part even though emergency contraception can’t cause an abortion (surely because we’re still living in conditions similar to ancient Greece, where it was dangerous to perform abortions or they, too, would’ve continued confusing how EC actually works) and obviously opted out of adhering to the “teaching of men but not women” and worshipping Apollo. Clearly, justifying the right to refuse medical treatment holds up when an ancient oath that really isn’t used anymore or taken literally is your justification.
I guess another oath that should remain forever the same is a woman’s vow to obey and serve her husband in marriage. Woulds’t thou concur, Dr. Harrison? Sadly, the answer is probably yes.
Darlene Bender, who appeared on Donny’s show, will be one of several speakers at a press conference for the Pennsylvania Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies (CARE) Act on September 13.
Julie in Philly