Pharyngula

No church-going doctors for me, please

Here I’ve been thinking of getting a nice tattoo (something discreet and subtle, like an octopus someplace you‘ll never see it), and then I learn that for the sake of my health, I better not. After all, some good Christian doctor might refuse to help me when I’m sick. Dr Gary Merrill, who proudly proclaims his Christian faith, turned away a little girl with an ear infection because her mother had a tattoo.

…Dr. Gary Merrill wouldn’t treat her daughter for an ear infection because Tasha, the mother, has tattoos.

The writing is on the wall—literally: “This is a private office. Appearance and behavior standards apply.”

For Dr. Gary Merrill of Christian Medical Services, that means no tattoos, body piercings, and a host of other requirements—all standards Merrill has set based upon his Christian faith.

Way to represent your faith, doc! He ought to read the Gospel of Luke—there’s an obscure story in there about some guy beaten up and left to die by the road, and a priest and a Levite, the people Dr Merrill must model his life after, walk by and leave him there to die. He can stop reading right there, though…there’s some other bit that follows with a fellow from Samaria that isn’t all that important.

Hey, I just had a liberating thought—I think I’d rather die than ask for help from some sanctimonious jerkwad who calls his clinic “Christian Medical Services,” so maybe I can go ahead and get that tat after all! Maybe I can get a little more flamboyant, too—how about keeping most of it under the shirt, but with one tentacle reaching up and wrapping around the neck?

Comments

  1. #1 Peter McGrath
    February 27, 2007

    A Christian not liking body piercings? Makes the crucifixion a tough gig.

  2. #2 djlactin
    February 27, 2007

    hippocratic oath? what’s that?

  3. #3 kirkmc
    February 27, 2007

    Shouldn’t he be sued an disbarred (or whatever they do to doctors) for this? Is anyone doing anything about it?

  4. #4 iain
    February 27, 2007

    Less ‘suffer the little children’ and more ‘let the little children suffer’. This beggars belief. As you point out, a good Christian would have treated the child – after all, Jesus ministered to all sorts of undesirables, right? But the thing that really gets me is the attitude that it’s OK for a doctor to allow a child (or any patient, for that matter) to suffer needlessly because they don’t like tattoos. This attitude seems to be shared by the AMA spokesman quoted. To say that it’s only in life-threatening situations that there are ethical requirements on the doctor is mind-boggling. This is a consequence of viewing medicine as being like any other business. In another country, this would be a serious offence against professional codes of ethics.

  5. #5 Mike Haubrich
    February 27, 2007

    Is this what Tony Benn was implying when he told Dawkins “Science doesn’t tell you how to live?”

    http://www.bennites.com/TONYBENNRICHARDDAWKINS.html

  6. #6 blorf
    February 27, 2007

    hippocratic oath? what’s that?
    /lurk

    the hypocritic oath takes precedence

    lurk

  7. #7 Ocky
    February 27, 2007

    Perhaps he also gives out that old-timey penicillin instead of those godless new antibiotics that have been ‘intelligently designed’ to deal with newer, resistant bacilli that have evolved. (a recent Doonesbury strip)

  8. #8 FishBwoy
    February 27, 2007

    PZ

    come and join the tattooed aquatic science crew.. once you start, you won’t want to stop!

    other aquatic ink (many from fellow scientists) at:
    http://www.lovelab.id.ucsb.edu/Tattoos.html

  9. #9 brtkrbzhnv
    February 27, 2007

    Considering that Jesus Christ Man himself has a “666″ tattoo and urges his followers to get ones for themselves, I fail to see how Christianity could be the motivator of this healer’s alleged discriminatory policy.

  10. #10 Ed Darrell
    February 27, 2007

    So, this guy hides behind some scripture in order to behave unethically?

    I would challenge this physician to point to any part of the California code of ethics for physicians, to any ethical code of the American Pediatric Association, to any part of scripture, the Better Business Bureau code, or anything else, which justifies such asinine, Sodomous* behavior.

    * Wha? Sodomous? Yeah, take a look at Ezekial. It explains that the behavior of the Sodomites that got God’s dander up was their inhospitality (nothing to do with sex, and especially nothing to do with homsexuality). So, why not call a self-proclaimed Christian Sodomite, a Sodomite?

  11. #11 iain
    February 27, 2007

    Evolving squid:

    “Is the doctor right? Yes, absolutely. He is a businessman and is within his rights to reduce his customer base subject to law and medical ethics.”

    Maybe this wasn’t clear to you: this doctor’s behaviour was unethical. What he did was morally wrong.

    Maybe the written code of conduct he works under doesn’t say so, but that is a flaw in it, not an excuse for him.

    I’ll leave aside your frankly weird points about people with tattoos and how they should expect to be treated. The point is:
    the little girl had a painful condition
    the doctor could have helped her
    he refused for no good reason
    so his action was wrong

    Maybe he’s within his rights to turn away adult patients whose looks he doesn’t like. I still would have problems with that, and it certainly isn’t very Christian. In this case, however, there is no ambiguity.

  12. #12 ERV
    February 27, 2007

    I wouldnt go to a physicians office called “Christian Medical Services” any more then I would go to “Jesus Saves Tire and Lube”, for reasons unrelated to my atheism.
    If you have to put “Christian” and “Jesus” in the name of your business to drum up customers and get people to trust you (cause only trustworthy people are Christians), then odds are, you suck.

  13. #13 Ed Darrell
    February 27, 2007

    There are 34 pediatricians I find listed for Bakersfield. Surely the mother could have found someone to take care of her kid’s ear problems.

    Which doesn’t excuse Dr. Merrill in any way.

  14. #14 David Marjanovi?
    February 27, 2007

    turned away a little girl with an ear infection because her mother had a tattoo.

    All the way to the seventh generation, eh? No comment.

    and the mother had no health insurance.

    A situation difficult to get into in Germany, of course.

  15. #15 David Marjanovi?
    February 27, 2007

    turned away a little girl with an ear infection because her mother had a tattoo.

    All the way to the seventh generation, eh? No comment.

    and the mother had no health insurance.

    A situation difficult to get into in Germany, of course.

  16. #16 Cocky Bastard
    February 27, 2007

    What the hell?

    Doctors refuse patients all the time for lack of MONEY or INSURANCE.

    Who ya kiddin?

  17. #17 iain
    February 27, 2007

    OK, cocky bastard, I’ll add ‘the doctor was going to be adequately recompensed’ to my list of salient factors. I was assuming it could go without saying…

  18. #18 Evolving Squid
    February 27, 2007

    I’ll leave aside your frankly weird points about people with tattoos and how they should expect to be treated.

    Please don’t. It’s important to this whole issue. I think people who make spectacles of themselves do so in an attempt to draw negative attention upon themselves and have no ground to complain when they get it. You dress weirdly, you should expect to get treated weirdly, irrespective of what kind of person you are deep down. It’s not cosmically fair, I’ll grant that, but it IS the way the world usually works.

    Now, the doctor is an independant business man. In the US, as I understand it, he has the freedom to pick and choose his clients within certain limits. It’s necessarly to qualify that with “In the US” because in other places that’s not the case and doctors have to deal with whoever walks in.

    I’m pretty sure, although anyone who can demonstrate otherwise is welcome to do so, that a doctor in most of the US is not required to treat anyone who asks for it unless there is an imminent danger to life. In this case, there was not.

    So it really boils down to “Mom didn’t get the service she wanted and bitched to the paper rather than going somewhere else”, and “The doctor doesn’t have a practice that most people would send their kids to.”

    I think the doctor’s actions are distasteful, but not unethical.

  19. #19 baldywilson
    February 27, 2007

    Doctors refuse patients all the time for lack of MONEY or INSURANCE.

    Which is an interesting ethical question in itself. Especially given all the clap-trap we’ve been hearing lately about how much more charitable and ethical religious people are supposed to be.

  20. #20 abeja
    February 27, 2007

    “Maybe he’s within his rights to turn away adult patients whose looks he doesn’t like. I still would have problems with that, and it certainly isn’t very Christian.”

    On the contrary, it seems very Christian to me. It’s certainly not moral, but the words “christian” and “moral” are not interchangeable.

  21. #21 Bill Dauphin
    February 27, 2007

    It doesn’t say how freaky-looking the parents are, but this is a topic I’ve been on about for years. If you have tattoos and piercings and look generally like some kind of freak, you should EXPECT this kind of negative attention…

    “And the sign said,
    Long-haired freaky people
    Need not apply…”

    How dare anyone express anything with their personal appearance (other than pure conformity, of course)?? I absolutely agree that the penalty for looking like “some kind of freak” ought to be denial of health care, hopefully leading to pestilence and death. And of course the “sins” of the mother should be visited on her children. [/snark]

    You know, the recent Julie Amero case proved (if nothing else) that we have a very tough and broadly applicable statute on child endangerment here in CT; if Dr. Good-God lived here, I know of a couple overzealous prosecutors we could send his name to!

    E-Squid, medicine is not just a business; it’s a profession, and its practitioners are responsible to professional standards. Being a doctor is also a position of public trust, subject to state licensing and oversight. It p!sses me off when doctors deny care based on personal whim, regardless of whether that whim is motivation by religious conviction (e.g., Plan B) or mere personal crankiness (as this case appears to be, regardless of the Good Dr.’s protestations of divine mandate).

    This is all just another argument for a universal health care system: I assume one peripheral benefit of such a system would be that patients would be guaranteed access to care without regard to their — or their parents’ — superficial aesthetic characteristics.

  22. #22 Patrick
    February 27, 2007

    Evolving squid:

    Is the doctor right? Yes, absolutely. He is a businessman and is within his rights to reduce his customer base subject to law and medical ethics.

    iain writes:

    Maybe this wasn’t clear to you: this doctor’s behaviour was unethical. What he did was morally wrong.

    You’re talking past Evolving Squid’s point. He/she/it is arguing that the doctor has the right to apply, or refuse to apply, his skills for whatever reasons he deems good. You are arguing that the doctor should be forced to apply his skills for reasons you deem good. It’s pretty easy to see which position is more consistent with individual freedom.

    Yes, the doctor is an ass. The fact that he is an ass should be widely publicized. People who disagree with his views should choose other doctors, and refuse their services to him (“I’d like to fix your plumbing, mister, but I’ve got these tattoos, so you don’t want me in your house.”).

    Forcing him to do what you want instead of what he wants is the definition of immoral.

    Patrick

  23. #23 baldywilson
    February 27, 2007

    You dress weirdly, you should expect to get treated weirdly, irrespective of what kind of person you are deep down. It’s not cosmically fair, I’ll grant that, but it IS the way the world usually works.

    If it were the parents seeking medical attention for themselves, then you may have an interesting point; but the parents were seeking medical attention for their child. The child did not choose to have parents with tattoos, and should not have been denied access to prompt medical care because of the lifestyle choices of her parents.

    In the US, as I understand it, he has the freedom to pick and choose his clients within certain limits. It’s necessarly to qualify that with “In the US” because in other places that’s not the case and doctors have to deal with whoever walks in.

    Whilst this is true, and certainly the AMA position appears to reflect this, that is not sufficient for determining whether what the doctor did was ethical.

    This is a doctor that is explicitly stating “I am a christian doctor, and I run a christian surgery”, in an area where, most likely, most people will regard christianity as the pinnacle of morality and ethics. It is therefore right and proper to examine the question, not in light of “is it legal?”, but “is it ethical?”. Two very different questions.

    This doctor has effectively said that it is ethical – and more to the point, has stated that it is ethical by the highest standards he can think of – to refuse to treat a child because of the appearance and lifestyle choices of its parents: a decision that the child has no influence over, and no responsibility for.

    It is simply one more example of members of a religion stating that what is ethical according to their religion would be considered abhorrent to most people.

  24. #24 dorid
    February 27, 2007

    PZ, you mean you DON’T have a tat yet?

    I thought that having a tatoo of your “study animal” was pretty much REQUIRED for marine biologists ;)

  25. #25 Peter Barber
    February 27, 2007

    Dear Evolving Squid,

    I think people who make spectacles of themselves do so in an attempt to draw negative attention upon themselves…

    Where, exactly, did the article say that the parents were making spectacles of themselves?

    You dress weirdly, you should expect to get treated weirdly, irrespective of what kind of person you are deep down.

    So it’s OK to discriminate based on appearance? Tell me – would you deny treatment to women who wear trousers, or men who wear pink? Immigrants from African countries with tribal scars, or who wear traditional robes? Sikhs because of their turbans? Ted Haggard because he just looks freaky?

    Now, the doctor is an independant[sic] business man.

    I think that says it all. Thank goodness I don’t live in the US, and have free access to state-employed doctors who receive and treat patients according to need.

  26. #26 windy
    February 27, 2007

    So it really boils down to “Mom didn’t get the service she wanted and bitched to the paper rather than going somewhere else”

    Yes, it’s not like parents of small children have anything better to do than go around all day searching for a doctor that approves of their appearance.

  27. #27 chris y
    February 27, 2007

    Evolving Squid,

    I understand that you feel it is OK to judge people by their appearance; I think that makes you a narrow minded bigot, but I don’t care because I’ll never have to meet you.

    I understand that you think it is OK for practicing physicians to prioritise their business model over their ethical obligations; I think that makes you amoral, but that’s OK because I’ll never have to meet you.

    But can you get this into your evolving brain: the patient did not have a damn tattoo. The patient didn’t even have a choice whether or not to have a tattoo. The patient was a child in pain, who had no responsibility whatever for her mother’s tastes. And in the face of this you continue to justify this quack.

    You, sir, are beneath contempt.

  28. #28 Craig
    February 27, 2007

    I hate people who dress like freaks too… those idiots, walking around all day with utterly useless and constricting pieces of cloth knotted around their necks.

  29. #29 Patrick
    February 27, 2007

    Bill Dauphin writes:

    The current issue is not about “individual freedom”: This guy could’ve exercised his freedom by choosing another career… but the free choice to become a doctor carries with it the obligation to treat patients ethically.

    This is entirely about individual freedom. You are talking about forcing the doctor to behave as you believe he should. The doctor is choosing to abide by different standards. You may consider his standards poorly thought out and not in accordance with the religion he claims to follow, and I would agree with you. As soon as you talk about forcing him to behave as you wish, though, you are the one in the wrong.

    Your claim that he somehow agreed to follow your view of morality when he became a doctor is vacuous. It is no more right to prevent someone with different views from becoming a doctor, assuming they have the ability, than it is to impose your views on them after they have become one.


    I tire of these whines about “individual freedom.”

    The cry of every would-be tyrant.

    The bottom line is that you consider it acceptable to force this person to act against his beliefs, even though he has neither threatened nor used force against anyone else. Regardless of the fact that this man is a jerk, that puts you in the wrong.

    Patrick

  30. #30 Caledonian
    February 27, 2007

    Maybe this wasn’t clear to you: this doctor’s behaviour was unethical. What he did was morally wrong.

    Yeah, because those standards are objective, universal, and absolute.

  31. #31 Evolving Squid
    February 27, 2007

    Yes, it’s not like parents of small children have anything better to do than go around all day searching for a doctor that approves of their appearance.

    I would think that arranging for medical care is something a responsible parent does sometime before their child desperately needs it, so yes, it’s probably fair to say that parents of small children do not have anything better to do than go around all day searching for a doctor that they can deal with. More correctly, they should be doing that before their child needs help.

    Maybe that’s just me. I didn’t wait until I was sick to find a doctor, and I think a responsible parent should do the same. This issue did not have to come up while their daughter was sick.

    I’m not saying that I think what the doctor did was “cool” in some way. I find it distasteful, but I find it so because, like so many people, I tend to hold doctors to a higher standard of behaviour than other people, and that’s perhaps a bit unfair. To me, the concept of Christian doctors is strange to begin with, but that’s beside the point. Distasteful doesn’t mean unethical. I think the medical code of ethics requires that doctors treat life-threatening issues and endeavour not to make situations worse. If that’s the code of ethics, then I’m not sure the doctor has broken them, even if people find his actions inappropriate.

    It’s also good that the doctor’s practices are out in the open, so people are aware and can make a better call on whether or not to seek services from that physician.

    Now, the doctor is an independant[sic] business man.

    I also have difficulty spelling “independent” as someone else noticed, and I get treated accordingly.

    So it’s OK to discriminate based on appearance? Tell me – would you deny treatment to women who wear trousers, or men who wear pink? Immigrants from African countries with tribal scars, or who wear traditional robes? Sikhs because of their turbans? Ted Haggard because he just looks freaky?

    The better question is: Would you want to be treated by someone who had such distaste for your appearance? I’m not sure I’d want to go to a doctor who had a thing for pudgy white guys but had to treat me because they were forced to accept me.

  32. #32 Bill Dauphin
    February 27, 2007

    You are talking about forcing the doctor to behave as you believe he should.

    Who forced him to become a doctor in the first place?

    Your claim that he somehow agreed to follow your view of morality when he became a doctor is vacuous.

    I make no such claim… but I do claim that when he became a doctor he “somehow agreed” to be a damn doctor! And not to arbitrarily punish children for his moral objections to their parents.

    I tire of these whines about “individual freedom.”

    The cry of every would-be tyrant.

    Hmmm… that I want my fellow citizens to respect each others rights, and my own, makes me a nascent tyrant? That I want people to live up to the implicit obligations of their own freely chosen professions makes me a tyrant?

    If that’s the definition of “tyrant,” I guess I’ll have to rethink my disapproval of tyrants. ;^)

    Look, it’s not about forcing anything on people; it’s about expecting people to know what they’re getting into: If you can’t eat bugs, don’t try out for Survivor; if you can’t treat kids who have parents you disapprove of, don’t become a pediatrician.

  33. #33 Tatarize
    February 27, 2007

    A friend of a friend uses possession of a Jesus fish on the truck to vet contractors. Anybody with the fish is an instant DQ. Same with any other general cues about religious faith.

    In general if they need to “faith-up” their services… their services can’t get by on their own. Just as any belief which requires faith to be believed is undoubtedly false.

  34. #34 Evolving Squid
    February 27, 2007

    It’s also worth noting that the article has a quote from someone else who has tattoos and who gets treatment from that doctor.

    That leads me to believe that the article may not be covering the situation fairly. Was there some other issue happening that might have led to refusal of treatment? That would seem relevant to the whole situation.

  35. #35 Evolving Squid
    February 27, 2007

    Just so it’s absolutely clear, is this a fair summary the moral and ethical opinion of the denizens of this blog:

    A doctor must treat anyone who shows up, for whatever their condition, irrespective of the personal beliefs of the doctor.

    If it is, then it goes well beyond the medical code of ethics.

  36. #36 Patrick
    February 27, 2007

    Bill Dauphin writes:
    >> You are talking about forcing the doctor
    >> to behave as you believe he should.
    >
    > Who forced him to become a doctor in the first place?

    Non-sequitur. Why should your views on how a doctor should behave have greater weight than his? What gives you the right to define how doctors should behave, and force them to do so?

    >> Your claim that he somehow agreed to follow
    >> your view of morality when he became a doctor
    >> is vacuous.
    >
    > I make no such claim… but I do claim that
    > when he became a doctor he “somehow agreed” to
    > be a damn doctor!

    You contradict yourself in the course of a single sentence. You are claiming that your definition of what it means to be a doctor is the one that should be enforced.

    >>> I tire of these whines about “individual freedom.”
    >>
    >> The cry of every would-be tyrant.
    >
    > Hmmm… that I want my fellow citizens to respect
    > each others rights, and my own, makes me a nascent
    > tyrant?

    You don’t respect the doctor’s right to choose who he will and will not treat.

    > That I want people to live up to the
    > implicit obligations of their own freely
    > chosen professions makes me a tyrant?

    No, it’s the fact that you reserve to yourself the right to decide that those “implicit obligations” actually exist and that your views of what they are should be enforced.

    > Look, it’s not about forcing anything on people;

    Then let’s be clear. Would you or would you not legally require the doctor to treat the child in these circumstances?

    If the answer is yes and the doctor refused, would you or would you not use the legal system to prevent the doctor from practicing medicine in the future?

    Patrick

  37. #37 Raging Bee
    February 27, 2007

    In any case, there’s a good lesson in this for young people everywhere: If you dress like a freak, you will judged and treated accordingly. That’s the way of things.

    Since when did the way of things justify or excuse the choices of people?

  38. #38 Adrienne
    February 27, 2007

    I read about this case last week.

    A couple of salient points:

    * According to an interviewer, other parents of this doctor’s patients have obvious tattoos or piercings, yet have never had their kids turned down for treatment. So the doctor is inconsistent at applying his own standards.

    * The mother was referred to this pediatrician by her insurance company, probably an HMO. So she didn’t just pick him randomly out of a phone book…the insurance picked for her. Seems to me that maybe doctors who have special “standards” for their patients ought to let their participating insurance providers know ahead of time, before they send unsuspecting patients into situations like this.

  39. #39 Matthew Penfold
    February 27, 2007

    Evolving Squid said:

    “Just so it’s absolutely clear, is this a fair summary the moral and ethical opinion of the denizens of this blog:

    A doctor must treat anyone who shows up, for whatever their condition, irrespective of the personal beliefs of the doctor.

    If it is, then it goes well beyond the medical code of ethics.”

    Provided that the doctor is suitably qualified to treat the condition presented, then yes, he does have a duty to treat to the patient. The fact that he may not like the patient, or approve of their lifestyle is not a relavent consideration.

    Should he patient have issues with paying, or be disruptive the doctor may decide that he will not treat PROVIDED he makes sure that will not mean the patient goes without treatment. The will normally mean a referral to another doctor. I would point out I live in the UK say payment issues are not really pertinent. Any doctor in the UK acting as this moron did would soon find themselves facing a standards hearing.

    It is pretty simple really. How come some people seem to have trouble understanding ?

  40. #40 RedMolly
    February 27, 2007

    Thank Dog for the evil, amoral atheists of Doctors Without Borders and the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, who commit to helping their patients despite–or maybe even because of–their personal and cultural differences from the societal norm.

  41. #41 iain
    February 27, 2007

    Patrick, E.S.,

    At what point did I suggest that the doctor should be forced to do anything? I said that his action was unethical. That doesn’t mean that I think he should be forced to behave ethically in cases like this. People often make this mistake: they assume that if something is wrong, it should be against the law. But there are plenty of ways in which we can fail to act as morality requires without breaking the law.

    I also didn’t say that doctors have an absolute duty to treat anyone regardless of their beliefs. I said that *in this case* the doctor had no good reason to refuse treatment to a *child* who was wholly innocent of offending against him.

    ES wants to insist that the tattoos are important, and that if ‘You dress weirdly, you should expect to get treated weirdly’. He ignores the central point here, which is that it was a child who was treated badly, because of her mother’s appearance. In other words, even your own argument could not possibly justify this action.

  42. #42 Warren
    February 27, 2007

    What’s hilariously ironic about this is that, just a few years ago, this same “doctor” would probably have refused to give the mother contraception, and would probably have refused to perform an abortion.

    Now, in typical right-wing asshattery, she’s out of the womb … and on her own.

  43. #43 TheBrummell
    February 27, 2007

    Various commenters upset with Evolving Squid wrote things like:
    …ought to be…

    …I understand that you feel it is OK to judge people by their appearance…

    AFTER Evolving Squid had written (emphasis added by me):
    In any case, there’s a good lesson in this for young people everywhere: If you dress like a freak, you will judged and treated accordingly. That’s the way of things.

    I’ve heard all the “I have tattoos and piercings and I’m not a freak” arguments. They’re beside the point. I’m sure you’re all great people – Nobel Peace winners just waiting for the chance. But nobody can see that for looking at you and the world reacts first on how you look. And apparently, so do some doctors…

    Why do so many people confuse “I see that the world is this way” with “I think that the world ought to be this way”?

    There is an important difference between those two statements.

    The impression I got from E-Squid’s comments (I may be mistaken) is that E-Squid is not surprised by this Doctor’s behaviour, based on a perception of wide-spread unease with tattooing (i.e. lots of people don’t like tattoos). At what point did E-Squid say “and the status quo is exactly the way I think is best”? At what point did E-Squid say “I hate non-conformists”?

    I think that makes you a narrow minded bigot, but I don’t care because I’ll never have to meet you.

    If you’re going to sling around strong terms like “bigot”, please check your sources first. You know, actually READ the relevant comment. Also, clearly you do care, because you went to the (minimal) trouble of posting a comment.

    As for the issue at hand – tempest in a tea-pot is my opinion. The Doctor is a jerk, not just for refusing to treat a sick child, but also for making the statement that he only treats christians, by naming his practice “Christian Medical Services”. As has been pointed out above, if you have to market your business by including a reference to the dominant local religion, perhaps you don’t have the competence to compete openly based on skill and talent. The mother is a media-mongering fool, who perhaps would have been better off simply going to another, less jerkish, Doctor, and then telling her friends and relatives about the poor service she got at Dr. Merrill’s place. Screaming “persecution!” to the local TV network affiliate seems somehow counterproductive.

    BUT, we’re not presented with much information here, are we?

  44. #44 Robert M.
    February 27, 2007

    Squid, it seems like you’re ignoring the gist of the comments against your position–at least, I don’t see where you’ve addressed the main objection.

    No one is claiming that it’s ethical to force the doctor to treat a patient; the claim is rather that he accepted the responsibility to treat all patients when he became a doctor, and that he’s now choosing to abrogate that responsibility.

    You’re skirting around the issue, saying that there might have been other factors, and that if the mom looked like a freak, it’s her own fault–but you haven’t addressed the underlying question of the doctor’s apparent practice of treating only the patients he likes.

  45. #45 Brainslug
    February 27, 2007

    I like that some of the posters above think it’s immediately obvious that “individual freedom” is preserved when a doctor refuses to treat a patient in need, and that it’s equally obvious that it’s not threatened when getting a tattoo means that your child has less access to non-emergency medical care.

  46. #46 Bill Dauphin
    February 27, 2007

    Then let’s be clear. Would you or would you not legally require the doctor to treat the child in these circumstances?

    If the answer is yes and the doctor refused, would you or would you not use the legal system to prevent the doctor from practicing medicine in the future?

    Yes, let’s do be clear: Doctors, like other professionals, are licensed by the state and certified by their fellow professionals. Being a licensed medical practitioner is not a civil right: It comes with both privileges and duties. All I’m saying is that people who are unwilling to perform the duties of a profession in a sensibly nondiscriminatory fashion should not be licensed, nor sanctioned by their peers. What I’m really saying is that if they know they can’t perform the duties of a given profession for all comers with a clear conscience, they should probably pick a different profession in the first place, and avoid the whole regulatory question.

    How that position makes me some sort of jackbooted thug is mysterious to me… but it’s sure been entertaining watching you try to make the case. Thanks. Gotta go now; I need to get my brown shirt pressed. ;^)

  47. #47 sally
    February 27, 2007

    I too would rather die than ask for any “Christian Medical Services”. As for the ink, I strongly suggest you keep it off your neck.

  48. #48 Matt Penfold
    February 27, 2007

    “6. A physician shall, in the provision of appropriate patient care, except in emergencies, be free to choose whom to serve, with whom to associate, and the environment in which to provide medical care.”

    Seems to conflict with

    “9. A physician shall support access to medical care for all people.”

    Did the doctor provide a referral to another doctor ? If he did not then it seems he was acting unethically.

  49. #49 Rugosa
    February 27, 2007

    Where in the bleeping New Testament does Jesus condemn people with tattoos or piercings? Aside from his general assholery, this doctor is making up his christianity as he goes along.

  50. #50 iain
    February 27, 2007

    Frelghra,

    One of the things I don’t like about codes of practice and suchlike is that people start thinking that as long as they obey the code, their conduct must be ethically acceptable. I think that the doctor didn’t do anything contrary to principle 6, but I still think that his actions were unethical.

  51. #51 Evolving Squid
    February 27, 2007

    No one is claiming that it’s ethical to force the doctor to treat a patient; the claim is rather that he accepted the responsibility to treat all patients when he became a doctor, and that he’s now choosing to abrogate that responsibility.

    Yes, I understand that is the gist of the comments, and no, I do not agree that a doctor accepts that responsibility when he becomes a doctor – even though, if I became a doctor, I would do so.

    The impression I got from E-Squid’s comments (I may be mistaken) is that E-Squid is not surprised by this Doctor’s behaviour, based on a perception of wide-spread unease with tattooing (i.e. lots of people don’t like tattoos). At what point did E-Squid say “and the status quo is exactly the way I think is best”? At what point did E-Squid say “I hate non-conformists”?

    Yes, that is correct. I will say that I think non-conformists get exactly what they should expect to get. Being non-conformist comes with a price. Being non-conformist is hard work. When you are non-conformist, I don’t think you have room to complain about the hardships.

    Obviously, I’m non-conformist compared to many people in this thread, and that hacks off some people. I’m prepared for that.

    No one is claiming that it’s ethical to force the doctor to treat a patient;

    I disagree. By calling the doctor’s actions unethical, and knowing that doctors are subject to a code of ethics, it is necessarily saying that the doctor is acting outside the code of ethics. If not treating the child is unethical, then the code of ethics forces treatment.

    you haven’t addressed the underlying question of the doctor’s apparent practice of treating only the patients he likes.

    You’re right. To me there is no question. Doctors treat only the patients they deem acceptable except in life-threatening situations. That’s all I expect of my doctor, or any doctor. Despite this, if I was a doctor, I would probably treat anyone who walked in the door – but I must say probably, because I am not a doctor and honestly can’t envision every possible situation.

    I’m overweight. If my doctor said “lose weight or I won’t treat you”, should I:

    1. Whine to the media?
    2. Find another doctor?
    3. Lose the weight?

  52. #52 Tom Foss
    February 27, 2007

    I’d like to see what a physician has to say about this, but it seems to me that once you make an appointment and the Doctor agrees to see you, he’s under some obligation to provide a service. After all, in most offices if you miss the appointment, you have to pay a fee. There’s an agreement between the doctor and patient that they will meet at a specific time for one to perform a service in exchange for monetary compensation.

    I think it’s perfectly ethical, if not moral or nice, for the doctor to say “okay, don’t ever come back here again,” but I think once he’s agreed to their appointment and visit, and once they’re in the office, he’s under some obligation to provide the service to which he agreed.

    The article says that the AMA supports the right to turn away patients, but I was under the impression that in the United States, most businesses face severe penalties for refusing to serve people based on things like color, creed, religion, national origin, and whatnot. Are there acceptions to anti-discriminatory laws that allow for religious-based discrimination?

  53. #53 Patrick
    February 27, 2007

    Bill Dauphin writes:

    Yes, let’s do be clear: Doctors, like other professionals, are licensed by the state and certified by their fellow professionals. Being a licensed medical practitioner is not a civil right: It comes with both privileges and duties. All I’m saying is that people who are unwilling to perform the duties of a profession in a sensibly nondiscriminatory fashion should not be licensed, nor sanctioned by their peers.

    That doesn’t add clarity, nor does it answer the questions I asked. The questions are quite straightforward, requiring only very simple responses:

    Would you or would you not legally require the doctor to treat the child in these circumstances?

    If the answer is yes and the doctor refused, would you or would you not use the legal system to prevent the doctor from practicing medicine in the future?

    I’m very interested in your response.

    Patrick

  54. #54 Matt Penfold
    February 27, 2007

    “I’m overweight. If my doctor said “lose weight or I won’t treat you”, should I:

    1. Whine to the media?
    2. Find another doctor?
    3. Lose the weight?”

    You missed an option. The doctor, if he think you should loose weight, should provide support for doing that. Ie, access to a dietician, refferal to specialised treatment if you are morbidly obese etc. Any doctor who just says go away and loose weight else I will not treat you is not acting professionally or ethically.

  55. #55 Chris
    February 27, 2007

    In any case, there’s a good lesson in this for young people everywhere: If you dress like a freak, you will judged and treated accordingly. That’s the way of things.

    Bow to our prejudice! Bow or suffer!

    Yes, the doctor is an ass. The fact that he is an ass should be widely publicized. People who disagree with his views should choose other doctors, and refuse their services to him (“I’d like to fix your plumbing, mister, but I’ve got these tattoos, so you don’t want me in your house.”).

    It’s not hard to reduce this argument to absurdity. “I’d like to prevent that guy from murdering you, but I’ve got these tattoos…”, or worse, “I’d like to stop your house from burning down, but *you’ve* got these tattoos…”

    Assuming that you accept that there is a line here, why is it ok for plumbers to do this but not police officers or firemen? Because somebody’s health could be in danger when police officers and firemen refuse their services.

    This is not a painter or a mechanic or a restaurant owner we’re talking about here. (Whether or not such behavior is or ought to be illegal for any of those businesses is a separate argument.) This is a doctor, and furthermore, one who refused service to a child because he disapproved of the parent. I really don’t see how anyone can consider his behavior defensible in the slightest, let alone meeting the standards we ought to expect from the medical profession.

    Maybe you think medical licenses shouldn’t be mandatory or regulated, but they are, and that means that practicing medicine is a privilege, not a right. I definitely believe he should be reprimanded by the appropriate licensing agency, and if he persists in denying care based on his personal prejudices, his license should be revoked. (Note: not “he should be jailed”.)

  56. #56 craig
    February 27, 2007

    “I’m overweight. If my doctor said “lose weight or I won’t treat you”, should I:

    1. Whine to the media?
    2. Find another doctor?
    3. Lose the weight?”

    I see. Because not treating a childs illness because of your attitudes about their parents sense of personal atire is exactly like a doctor telling you that if you don;t take his medical advice, he’ll stop giving you medical advice.

    um, no.

    Lose weight or I won’t treat your daughter.
    Nope… that’s not even it. He’d still be an ass, but its still on the basis of YOUR health, supposedly.

    “I won’t treat your daughter because I’m a Christian and you’re a Jew.”
    “I won’t treat your daughter because you’re black and my Christian religion says the races should be seperated.
    “I won’t treat your daughter because you’re gay.”
    “I won’t treat your daughter because you’re not wearing a veil.”

    Yep. That’s more like it. Thats more like the religion-inspired bigotry you’re defending.

  57. #57 Patrick
    February 27, 2007

    Chris writes:

    > Yes, the doctor is an ass. The fact that he is
    > an ass should be widely publicized. People who
    > disagree with his views should choose other
    > doctors, and refuse their services to him (“I’d
    > like to fix your plumbing, mister, but I’ve got
    > these tattoos, so you don’t want me in your
    > house.”).


    It’s not hard to reduce this argument to absurdity. “I’d like to prevent that guy from murdering you, but I’ve got these tattoos…”, or worse, “I’d like to stop your house from burning down, but *you’ve* got these tattoos…”

    The difference being that police officers’ and fire fighters’ employment contracts and job descriptions include the requirement to provide services to all residents of an area. The police, in particular, are part of the government and are bound to protect all citizens.

    Doctors, on the other hand, are simply individuals with particular skills they have learned over long years of study and practice. Many own their own business and have accepted no obligation with respect to anyone they do not explicitly choose to associate with.

    Patrick

  58. #58 Bill Dauphin
    February 27, 2007

    Speaking for myself (and not necessarily for others on “my side” of this debate), it’s not that I’ve been neglecting the AMA code; it’s just that I’ve been more interested in broader notions of what’s ethical. Nondiscrimination may not be a specific core value for the AMA, but it is a core value of our larger society.

    To the extent that Item 6 affirms a doctor’s right to protect his practice from patients who are disruptive or abusive or in some way a threat to the well-being of the doctor, his staff, or his other patients, I’m in perfect agreement. To the extent that it affirms a doctor’s right to deny care arbitrarily based on person whim or religious prejudice, I would subject the code to the same criticism I’ve voiced regarding this doctor himself.

    I’m not sure that’s the right way of reading that provision, though. Matt points out the conflict between Items 6 and 9. In addition, the broad reading of Item 6 seems in conflict with Item 8′s admonition to “regard responsibility to the patient as paramount.” Futher, Item 3 requires a physician to respect the law, and many states have laws that forbid endangering children, which (at least in my state’s case) includes neglecting threats to a child’s health. (Surely allowing an infection to go untreated is more injurious to health than a fleeting glimpse of a pornographic photo, right?) Finally, Item 6 itself is framed in the context of “the provision of appropriate patient care.” It’s hard to imagine how “you have to keep suffering, little girl, because God doesn’t like your Mommy’s tattoos” can be construed as appropriate patient care.

    Personally, I think it would be hard to find a serious ethicist who would defend this doctor’s approach… but if you did find such a person, I’d be more than happy to disagree with him/her.

  59. #59 baldywilson
    February 27, 2007

    EvolvingSquid: “Doctors treat only the patients they deem acceptable except in life-threatening situations.

    Hold up a second:

    The cry of every would-be tyrant.

    The bottom line is that you consider it acceptable to force this person to act against his beliefs, even though he has neither threatened nor used force against anyone else. Regardless of the fact that this man is a jerk, that puts you in the wrong.

    But isn’t requiring that a doctor help someone who’s life is threatened, even if they disaprove of that person, their lifestyle, their dress, or their general freakiness using force?

    If it’s using force by calling it unethical in cases where life is not immedeatly at threat (but discomfort, or even extreme pain may be), why is it not wrong to use force by calling it unethical in cases where life is?

    What about if it were a position where not providing the treatment may be life-threatening, but it’s not certain?

    Surely to be consistent you should be condemning any ethical claim that it is a doctor has any duty to treat anyone at any time.

  60. #60 Dianne
    February 27, 2007

    Technically, a doctor has the right to refuse to treat a patient if he or she believes that she/he is unable to treat the patient to the best of his/her abilities for any reason. So a doctor like this one who is a narrow minded bigot is perfectly within his rights to refuse to treat non-Christians, tattooed people, minorities, whatever. However, there are several exceptions. One, if there is an emergency situation in which no other doctor is available. Given that the child in question went without antibiotics overnight, which could have led to meningitis or other nasty complications, there is an argument to be made that this was an emergency. If those knowing the full story believe that this interpretation is correct, Dr Merrill should lose his license for not ensuring that the child received adequate treatment. Another situation is if a doctor-patient relationship has already been established then the doctor can’t turn the patient away just because, say, her mother got a tattoo. If this child was an established patient, Dr Merrill’s license should be removed. Otherwise, he should simply lose all his patients and go bankrupt for being a hopeless jerk, a terrrible Christian, and a generally worthless human being.

  61. #61 RedMolly
    February 27, 2007

    Many own their own business and have accepted no obligation with respect to anyone they do not explicitly choose to associate with.

    I’m wondering how the hospital where this doctor has privileges might feel about this incident.

    Wait, wait, don’t tell me… he’s affiliated with Dominionist Medical Center, where their rule of thumb is “No baptism, no prayer covering, no service.”

  62. #62 dorid
    February 27, 2007

    You know I wonder if it would have been different if the child’s FATHER had a tattoo… I suppose that would have been acceptable. Of course, the mother could have been wearing slacks (oooh, dressing like a man, how evil!) or had short hair (how dare she cut her crowning glory… OR gone about with it uncovered!)

    The problem here is that he is in MEDICINE… now, if he were a TEACHER denying services for how a parent looked or dressed people would be ALL up in arms… if he were a police officer refusing to come to the aide of a victim who didn’t look the way he wanted him to, there would be no question that he’d loose his job. Some jobs REQUIRE a different ethical standard. This isn’t a soda shop where you can post a sign “no shirt, no shoes, no service”

    Sure, I see above the AMA Principles of Medical Ethics, and specifically #6 that says that a doctor may choose whom to treat, but it also says he will insure medical access to all people.

    Unfortunately, Bill (see comment #47) is very correct, we as parents don’t always get time to check on our doctor’s religious beliefs… and further, if our insurance is limited we may have a very limited pool of doctors to chose from in the first place. If one doctor doesn’t like the way we look, another doesn’t accept our insurance, another only accepts people of his faith, WHERE do we get medical treatment? Or are OUR rights to be limited by the pool of local doctors?

    Frankly I’m also surprised Evolving Squid would equate a tattoo with being “freaky”. I haven’t seen where the tattoo in question was described. I hardly think a simple rose bud on the ankle would be freaky… which could very well have been the case here… I mean, the article DIDN’T say this woman was COVERED with tattoos. And I wonder where Evolving Squid draws the freaky line. The whole “she deserves it because of how she looks” sounds suspiciously misogynistic.

  63. #63 Bill Dauphin
    February 27, 2007

    Would you or would you not legally require the doctor to treat the child in these circumstances?

    If the answer is yes and the doctor refused, would you or would you not use the legal system to prevent the doctor from practicing medicine in the future?

    Well, I think both questions are answered by what I’ve already said, but since you don’t…

    Yes, I would make the obligation to treat patients on a reasonably nondiscriminatory basis a condition of licensing (as an aside, I don’t know that it isn’t already one). And to the extent that you consider revoking a license “using the legal system,” then yes, I would use the legal system to prevent doctors who refuse to comply with conditions of their licenses from continuing to practice medicine.

    If this isn’t what the law already requires, it should be, IMHO.

    None of that makes me an enemy of freedom.

  64. #64 Stanton
    February 27, 2007

    I find it peculiar that there are people defending this doctor, nevermind that a) there are laws in this country that forbid business folks from discriminating against people solely on appearances, that b) this doctor claims himself to be a “Christian,” nevermind that Jesus made several big song and dance numbers (at least three) about not judging people solely on their appearances, creeds or lifestyles.
    I mean, where in the Bible does it say that it’s okay to deny a person who needs help because you disapprove of what his or her parent looks like? Would this doctor still be justified in doing what he did if the girl had a heart murmur, or a more life-threatening infection?

  65. #65 Leslie C
    February 27, 2007

    Here is a survey of doctors done by the U of Chicago:

    58% carry religious beliefs into their daily work
    63% believe it is ethical to explain moral objections to a patient
    86% feel obligated to tell patients about all medically available procedures
    71% feel obligated to refer a patient to a doctor who does not object to a procedure

    etc.

    That leaves a lot of room for doctors who are not doing the right thing.

    Maybe doctors should be required to state their religious persuasion to their patients.

    http://www-news.uchicago.edu/releases/07/070207.doctorsandreligion.shtml

  66. #66 dorid
    February 27, 2007

    here are some more facts in the case:

    The parents DID NOT CHOOSE the doctor, the doctor was ASSIGNED by their insurance company, Health Net.

    Other patients with tattoos were allowed service.

    Judging from the apartment complex in Bakersfield where the parents were interviewed, they were probably medicaid (medi-cal) patients. The complex looks very much like one of the subsidized complexes in that area.

    Now, when I was in California I also had Health Net. I know FIRST HAND how limited the number of doctors they have, how long it takes to change doctors, and the hoops you have to jump through to get things done. I actually had to be referred to a doctor a county away because there were no specialists in my area, and when insurance changed just before surgery, I was denied surgery, because there were no doctors in a three county area that had the insurance approval.

    The tattoo the mother had was three small stars behind her ear (barely visible, even with her short hair)

    First off, the mother didn’t CHOOSE to go to this doctor, but had to if she wanted care for her child. OR, she could have waited a month or so with a child with an ear infection until things could be changed with medi-cal/ Health Net.

    It also seems to me to be questionable for federal monies (medicaid) to be going to an organization that promotes or supports a specific religion. Heck, if you can’t get federal funds for the Boy Scouts, you shouldn’t be able to for “Christian” medical practices.

  67. #67 mgr
    February 27, 2007

    Adrienne said: “The mother was referred to this pediatrician by her insurance company, probably an HMO. So she didn’t just pick him randomly out of a phone book…the insurance picked for her. Seems to me that maybe doctors who have special “standards” for their patients ought to let their participating insurance providers know ahead of time, before they send unsuspecting patients into situations like this.”

    My concern as well. What is being overlooked is the patient’s freedom to choose, by those defending the doctor’s right of refusal.

    The doctor is contractually obligated to provide service under the HMO. The child is his patient by referral, until the doctor, for whatever reason, can refer the child to another pediatrician under the same HMO. He has no rights of refusal, or if he does refuse treatment, the mother may sue the HMO, who in turn may sue the doctor.

    Mike

  68. #68 Stanton
    February 27, 2007

    Three small stars and short hair, eh? Shocking!
    Oh, won’t someone think of the children? Won’t anybody think of the children!
    Oh, wait.

  69. #69 PZ Myers
    February 27, 2007

    Jeez, I feel awful about having to defend a small scrap of the Bible, but really go read that little story in Luke. It’s not very long.

    The priest and the Levite, I’m sure, had perfectly good reasons to pass on by: maybe the situation wasn’t covered in the priestly oath, or even exempted; maybe their insurance companies wouldn’t cover the risk; maybe they were on their way to the temple, where they’d discuss the issue back and forth; maybe under their definition of “ethical”, it was OK to refuse to aid a dirty, bloody wrecked-up man.

    I think I’m a little more impressed with the guy who saw a human need and reached out a hand without a thought for what a contract somewhere said. There’s a lesson there. You might even call it a parable.

  70. #70 Patrick
    February 27, 2007

    Bill Dauphin writes:

    Yes, I would make the obligation to treat patients on a reasonably nondiscriminatory basis a condition of licensing
    [ . . . ]
    yes, I would use the legal system to prevent doctors who refuse to comply with conditions of their licenses from continuing to practice medicine.


    If this isn’t what the law already requires, it should be, IMHO.


    None of that makes me an enemy of freedom.

    Actually, it does. You are willing to use the force of the state to impose you views of correct behavior on otherwise peaceful people. No matter how many politicians, licensing boards, or police officers you put between yourself and the result of the process, the bottom line is that you are willing to initiate coercion against another human being who is not threatening you.

    That makes you an enemy of freedom.

    Patrick

  71. #71 Evolving Squid
    February 27, 2007

    And I wonder where Evolving Squid draws the freaky line. The whole “she deserves it because of how she looks” sounds suspiciously misogynistic.

    A good question. I’m not sure there is a line… more of a fuzzy area that gets less fuzzy on each side. Face piercings and visible tattoos are over on the freaky side. A hidden rose on the ankle, probably not. If the person is flaunting it, regardless of where it is, it’s probably on the freaky side.

    Yes, I’ve often got the “she deserves it because of how she looks” misogyny comment. That is a loaded comment because it generally refers to some sexual assualt/rape. I don’t think you can dress so as to deserve to be beaten and violated. I do think you can dress to look like a hooker and give people that impression as you walk down the street. So although you wouldn’t deserve to be raped, you probably would deserve for someone to offer money for services.

    Our entire culture has a theme of dressing appropriately. That’s why lawyers don’t wear biker gear to court and why ditch diggers don’t wear tuxedos, and why you show up for a job interview in a suit. That some people wish not to conform to those rules is a victory for personal freedom, but it doesn’t mean that the rules go away.

    Whether those rules are “right” in the universal, objective sense is another issue entirely.

    Back to the issue at hand. The article does not really give enough information to make a truly informed decision about what was going on. It presents the mother’s side only, and it does so in such a way that makes me think there might just be a lot more to the whole thing. The whole tattoo and piercing thing is almost a non-sequitur since we can all debate whether or not it is right that people’s first impressions and treatment of any other person is based on the appearance each person presents.

    This thread has a number of things being debated, the primary of which is whether or not a doctor should ever be able to refuse service, for whatever reason. It appears that most of you think not. You therefore have a challenge in front of you to make it so.

    If the child was in such dire straits, the parent could have shown up at the hospital. In fact, the whole article seems to indicate that the parents were quite remiss in this whole situation:

    “She had to go that entire night with her ear infection with no medicine because he has his policy,” Tasha Childress said.

    I’m pretty sure that if a member of my family was in such rough shape, and the first doctor I went to wouldn’t treat me FOR WHATEVER REASON, my first and foremost priority would be to address the medical treatment issue. Later, I might bitch and moan about the doctor refusing me. I might even call the paper, but if medical attention was required, you can be damn sure I’d find it.

    Therefore, I say the child did NOT have to the entire night with an ear infection and no medicine, but that the parents CHOSE to have the child go the entire night with no medicine. The article doesn’t say why that choice was made, but it does allow me to conclude that the situation was not grave. Perhaps you parents reading this can explain how it is that the doctor is to be pilloried for refusing care but the parents are not to be pilloried for not seeking care… “Help my daughter.” “no, you look weird.” “ok, nevermind. Come on darling, let’s go home.”

    It’s easy to rag on the doctor, but he’s only one piece of the puzzle of why the child was not treated.

  72. #72 moriarty
    February 27, 2007

    ESquid, for all this talk about “whining” to the media, we wouldn’t know about this issue if she hadn’t gone to the media.

    How can you complain about her going to the media? Information makes us free. If you choose to defend the doctor, then fine, but don’t begrudge others in the community from hearing about his policy (which apparently wasn’t made clear to the woman before arriving for her appointment). If the doc wants to be a non-conformist, then he has to accept the negative publicity that goes with it.

  73. #73 Stanton
    February 27, 2007

    From what I remember from the parable, the rabbi was just too busy to help, and the Levite had a religious proscription forbidding him from touching “unclean” things, like people wallowing in pools of their own blood.
    What made the story all the more shocking in Jesus’ day was that the Samaritans were thought of as being subhuman monsters, simply because, when the Babylonians conquered the Israelites, and marched everyone in Jerusalem to Babylon, the Samaritans got to stay in their mountain home.

  74. #74 Evolving Squid
    February 27, 2007

    First off, the mother didn’t CHOOSE to go to this doctor, but had to if she wanted care for her child. OR, she could have waited a month or so with a child with an ear infection until things could be changed with medi-cal/ Health Net.

    I admit, this is difficult for me to comprehend because I live in a place where I can go to any doctor I choose, subject to availability, and where hospitals have to treat you if you show up.

  75. #75 Frelghra
    February 27, 2007

    Bill:

    Matt points out the conflict between Items 6 and 9.

    ‘Support’ is not equivalent to ‘personally provide’. There is no conflict. If I support the spreading of literacy, that does not mean I am required to teach every person who asks me to.

    In addition, the broad reading of Item 6 seems in conflict with Item 8′s admonition to “regard responsibility to the patient as paramount.”

    “A physician shall, while caring for a patient, regard responsibility to the patient as paramount.”

    The physician was not caring for the patient; the point here is that he refused to care for the patient. Point 8 doesn’t apply.

    Futher, Item 3 requires a physician to respect the law, and many states have laws that forbid endangering children, which (at least in my state’s case) includes neglecting threats to a child’s health.

    If he broke the law in his state, then certainly he should be charged. The article mentioned no such charges, so I must assume that he broke no laws.

    Finally, Item 6 itself is framed in the context of “the provision of appropriate patient care.” It’s hard to imagine how “you have to keep suffering, little girl, because God doesn’t like your Mommy’s tattoos” can be construed as appropriate patient care.

    You misinterpret the phrase “In the provision of appropriate patient care”. It could equivalently be read “In the matter of the provision of appropriate patient care”. The physician is free to choose to whom he provides appropriate patient care, except in the case of an emergency. He chose not to provide care to the child.

    Stanton:

    I find it peculiar that there are people defending this doctor…

    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” -Evelyn Beatrice Hall

    I personally believe he should have treated the child. However, my personal beliefs have no bearing on the facts of the matter, and I have no right to impose my personal standards of behavior on him. If he broke no laws and did not violate the professional code of ethics of his field, then no official punishment is warranted.

    Would this doctor still be justified in doing what he did if the girl had a heart murmur, or a more life-threatening infection?

    If the situation could be considered an emergency, then no. As already established he may choose whom to serve “except in the case of emergencies.”

  76. #76 Evolving Squid
    February 27, 2007

    If the doc wants to be a non-conformist, then he has to accept the negative publicity that goes with it.

    Absolutely!

    My complaint about going to the press is that the press was contacted before the daughter was looked after and I think that indicates improperly set priorities. Here are courses of action that I think would have been appropriate:

    1. Get on the phone immediately to Health-Net, explain the situation and demand that they resolve it.

    2. In the event of that not being possible, head to an emergency treatment facility at a hospital.

    3. Once the child has been looked after, then think about retribution against the first doctor (like going to the media).

    Assuming that you accept that there is a line here, why is it ok for plumbers to do this but not police officers or firemen? Because somebody’s health could be in danger when police officers and firemen refuse their services.

    It is OK because taxpayers don’t pay for plumbers, but they do pay for policemen and firefighters. Because we all pay taxes, irrespective of how we dress or what IPU we believe in, we’re all entitled to the service without regard to how we dress or what IPU we believe in. A policeman and a firefighter agree to that when they sign up.

    In many places, doctors are paid out of tax money and in those places, then I would agree that a doctor has no ground to refuse service.

  77. #77 Mrs Tilton
    February 27, 2007

    Can we just clear up one point here? Pretty much everybody is agreed that this doctor is an ass. The disagreement is over whether or not he was acting ethically. As a lawyer, I can answer that question with an emphatic, “It depends”.

    “Ethics” in the broad, everyday sense is not the same thing as “professional ethics”. As a physician, the doctor is bound by a specific set of ethical rules promulgated by the AMA. Apparently, he was acting within the bounds of those rules. Accordingly, he was being “ethical” in the sense of the AMA’s rules of professional ethics. At the same time, he was very clearly being unethical in the broader sense, not to mention immoral, offensive, unspeakable and an all-round flaming bunghole (and from my perspective, and pace PZ and the rest of yiz, un-Christian; like crster at #12, I’d dearly love to watch the doctor explaining himself to his Lord and Saviour).

    It’s important not to mix up professional ethics with ethics in the broad sense. They’re just not the same. Under the ethical code that binds me, I can do some things that would strike the layperson as unethical (insert lawyer joke here). By the same token, I could be struck off the rolls for some things that laypersons might well think not wrong at all. “Ethics” in the technical professional sense simply doesn’t mean what we normally take it to mean.

    Mike at #79 sees the real way to get this bastard. If the doctor had a contractual obligation to provide service, the child may have a claim for damages against him. The AMA’s ethical code would have nothing to do with that.

  78. #78 Mrs Tilton
    February 27, 2007

    My complaint about going to the press is that the press was contacted before the daughter was looked after and I think that indicates improperly set priorities.

    Even assuming arguendo that everything in the sentence above is true, that in no way mitigates the doctor’s appalling arseholery.

  79. #79 RedMolly
    February 27, 2007

    You are willing to use the force of the state to impose you[r] views of correct behavior on otherwise peaceful people…. That makes you an enemy of freedom.

    Ah, yes… “otherwise peaceful people,” just like those “otherwise peaceful” business owners who have refused to serve African-Americans, Jews, Muslims, mixed-race couples, same-sex couples… while I would not argue that personal appearance is necessarily in the same category as these others, it sounds to me as if you’re taking a blanket argument against civil rights legislation in any form.

    Calling someone an “enemy of freedom” has a tendency to slot you into the “automatically ignore” category alongside such masters of freedom-lovin’ rhetoric as Karl Rove, Michelle Malkin and Glenn Beck. Kind of like the term “Darwinist”… at the first syllable, the fingers pop into the ears and the “la-la-la” chorus begins. It’s inaccurate and hyperbolic at the least.

    Sure, this nincompoop has the right to refuse to treat a patient based on her mother’s appearance (just as I think that the mother had not only the right, but the responsibility to do whatever she could to publicize his cockamamie decision). But if he wants to do so, the state has a responsibility to the rest of the community to not support him in his behavior–for example, by no longer allowing him to receive Medicaid/Medi-Cal funds. That’d be a good start.

  80. #80 Evolving Squid
    February 27, 2007

    But if he wants to do so, the state has a responsibility to the rest of the community to not support him in his behavior–for example, by no longer allowing him to receive Medicaid/Medi-Cal funds. That’d be a good start.

    Exactly.

    If he is being paid by the state then he should be required to give service to anyone in the state, or if he wishes not to, then should be cut off from state funds. That seems eminently fair to me.

    Similarly, if he as a contract to provide services and refusal stipulations are not part of the contract, then he would seem to be on the hook for it.

    I can’t really argue with that.

  81. #81 Patrick
    February 27, 2007

    Francis writes:

    Patrick’s 12:09 comment is entirely correct. Civil rights laws are enemies of freedom — the freedom of bigotry, hate and slaveholding.

    Ah yes, the tired old response that attempts to stop discussion by accusing the person you disagree with of something so heinous that no actual rational argument is necessary.

    Without going way off topic, suffice to say that there are other approaches to achieve the goals that you and I no doubt share. I prefer the voluntary, non-coercive ones.


    Personally, i’m ok with the state sacrificing those freedoms. the gains outweigh the losses.

    I’m not okay with the state having such power, nor in it using it in my name. I’d rather have the bigots right out in public where voluntary, non-coercive behavior can be brought to bear.

    There are more options than are dreamed of in your philosophy.

    Patrick

  82. #82 Patrick
    February 27, 2007

    RedMolly writes:

    Calling someone an “enemy of freedom” has a tendency to slot you into the “automatically ignore” category

    That term was introduced by Mr. Dauphin.

    Patrick

  83. #83 Jason
    February 27, 2007

    I’m pretty sure that Patrick himself would qualify as an “enemy of freedom” by his own absurd definition of that term (namely, anyone who is “willing to use the force of the state to impose [their] views of correct behavior on otherwise peaceful people.”)

  84. #84 Denise Loving
    February 27, 2007

    It is possible that the parents don’t have the money to take their child to the ER, as someone above said they should have. It isn’t easy to take on maybe $200 or $300 of debt, that you will be hounded for, when your child was covered by an HMO that this doctor was a part of. Perhaps contacting the press was the best way they could think of to see that their child was treated.

    People who’ve never lived paycheck to paycheck seldom see that not everyone has the same set of choices that they do.

  85. #85 AgnosticOracle
    February 27, 2007

    In case anyone wants to give them an opinion on their ethics.

    Christian Medical Services
    2920 F St # C6, Bakersfield, CA
    (661) 324-8990

    Address via:
    http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Christian%20Medical%20Services%20bakersfield%2C%20ca&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&sa=N&tab=wl

  86. #86 Kristine
    February 27, 2007

    So at this point (and yes, I think we all agree that this so-called doctor’s an ass), is it possible to develop a database of doctors who are either non-religious (i.e., philosophical secularism)or who emphatically commit to giving the best care for everyone (i.e., methodological secularism)? Or how about this being a job for the AMA, since they aren’t policing their own? (No, on second thought, I and bunch of citizens had better do it on our own. Grrr.)

    I mean, I can’t believe that in finally choosing a primary care doctor (over 40, I’d better start) I have to ask if there are physicians who are either atheists or humanists, or who are religious but are not selfish, fanatical, whack-job asses.

  87. #87 dorid
    February 27, 2007

    Evolving Squid: I see you’ve NEVER had to deal with Health Net.

    I once sat in a hospital radiology department for several hours on the phone with Health Net AFTER receiving a referral from THEIR APPROVED physician to THEIR APPROVED hospital, but the INDIVIDUAL DEPARTMENT was not approved for payment by Health Net. After a three way conference call between Health Net, my specialist, the Radiology Department and the Financial Office of the hospital, I ended up going home WITHOUT the recommended tests, but could schedule at ANOTHER office in a month or two. The diagnosis they were hoping to rule out? Cancer.

    Believe me, I can TOTALLY see these people going to the media or to a lawyer immediately. It may well be the only reason the little girl got the treatment the next day at all.

    Medicaid patients are often treated like second class citizens in many states. The disabled and poor are often assigned doctors with very little option… some programs do not allow you to change your doctor for a year or more at a time.

  88. #88 Captain C
    February 27, 2007

    I think it might be educational for the not-so-good doctor to receive a flood of copies of the story of the Good Samaritan in his email and snailmail boxes.

  89. #89 Hairhead
    February 27, 2007

    Patrick says: ” . . . you are willing to initiate coercion against another human being who is not threatening you.

    That makes you an enemy of freedom.”

    Actually, refusing medical service is a direct threat, to my health and well-being, and to the health of my family. That has a distinct and measurable effect upon my freedom. My freedom to stay alive, and to keep my spouse or children alive.

    Does NOBODY in this thread get that doctors and plumbers and other “independent businessmen” simply CANNOT be lumped together? The very first “doctors” were what we now call “witch doctors”, so-named because their ability to (sometimes) heal someone injured, or bring someone back to health was perceived, as a god-like power.

    And it still is. The ability to prevent an ear infection from becoming meningitis is simply beyond everyone but medical professionals working within a larger health-care system. Denial of medical service is an assault, and as such, an assault on freedom. The power which a person gains by study at medical school to save people’s lives or to keep them alive or to maintain their health is very real; and every real power (like the power of the police, or of the courts) needs limits placed upon it.

  90. #90 Clare
    February 27, 2007

    One issue is what to do about morons, Christian or otherwise, who refuse to treat children because they disapprove of those children’s parents. The other is the significance of this particular doctor making his Christianity an overt component of his practice, such that he uses it to justify his choice of patients. I have no doubt that this doctor could learn many lessons from the parable of the Good Samaritan; one (mine anyway) is that overt identification with a set of religious precepts may actually enable cruelty and indifference. When insurance companies put a doctor like this on their list of providers, or worse when more of our social services are turned over to religious groups and persons who think like him, then we have real problems as a society.

  91. #91 Bill Dauphin
    February 27, 2007

    Frelghra:

    This…

    If he broke the law in his state, then certainly he should be charged. The article mentioned no such charges, so I must assume that he broke no laws.

    …is a spectacularly naive comment: The world is full of laws, and violations of same, that don’t result in charges. If you drove a car from home to work this morning, you probably broke several traffic laws; the fact that you weren’t charged does not imply those laws don’t exist.

    Under the CT law and accompanying legal theory used to convict Julie Amero for allowing her students to glimpse porn pop-ups, almost every parent in the state has probably been guilty of a felony at some point… yet most of us are still walking around free. That arguably (almost certainly, in fact) makes it a bad law, but it doesn’t mean the law doesn’t exist.

    I don’t know anything about California law, but I’m guessing that in many jurisdictions this doctor’s actions would at least arguably violate both statutory provisions regarding child endangerment and constitutional provisions regarding discrimination. Whether or not they would result in charges or sanctions is a separate question.

    As for the AMA code, I readily disclaimed any special training or expertise. You may have both, and your reading of the code may well be more correct than mine. Even if that’s the case it doesn’t insulate Dr. JesusHatesTattoos from my criticism: As I’ve said, and as Mrs. Tilton (@91) explained even better than I, there are broader notions of ethics at play here. The fact that the AMA may defend these actions doesn’t mean I have to.

    Patrick:

    You are willing to use the force of the state to impose you views of correct behavior on otherwise peaceful people. No matter how many politicians, licensing boards, or police officers you put between yourself and the result of the process, the bottom line is that you are willing to initiate coercion against another human being who is not threatening you.

    If that’s your emotionally loaded way of suggesting that I think it’s appropriate that people have rules for how they live together, and that folks be obligated, at some level, to live by those rules… well, yeah. That’s what we call “society.” If believing in society is what you mean by “enemy of freedom,” sign me up. Your version of freedom sounds like anarchy to me; I’m much happier with my version.

    OK folks, I’m out. I’ve said everything I have to say on this subject — much of it more than once — and now I’m going to give it a rest. Enjoy!

  92. #92 Matt Penfold
    February 27, 2007

    Frelghra,

    You seem have misunderstand my point about items 6 and 9.

    “‘Support’ is not equivalent to ‘personally provide’. There is no conflict. If I support the spreading of literacy, that does not mean I am required to teach every person who asks me to.”

    No it does not. But a doctor who has a patient reffered to him CANNOT refuse to treat the patient UNLESS he makes alternative provision. And note it is for the doctor to make a further referrel, not the patient. In this case it seems the doctor just plain refused treatment. And in doing so he was in contravention of item 9 becuase he did NOTHING further.

    You clearly are not aware of the long standing convention that once a doctor has agreed to treat a patient, and in giving the patient an appoinment he clearly was agreeing to provide treatment, that doctor cannot refuse to carrying on treating unless provision is made for treatment to be provided elsewhere. This doctor, it seems, did nothing of the sort, and that is what makes his actions both unacceptable and unethical.

    Further, if the doctor requires his patients to be of a certain appearance and demenour then he must make that clear before offering an appointment. It is too late for him to later decide he does not like the look of the patient.

  93. #93 Adrienne
    February 27, 2007

    I think “Dr. Pharisee” is a better nick than “Dr. Philistine”, because, as is the case with the Biblical parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, he probably thanks God daily that he is God’s chosen, and not one of those sorry, immoral, tattooed riffraff.

  94. #94 Rey Fox
    February 27, 2007

    Plus, the more common view of “Philistine” these days is one who doesn’t appreciate art or aesthetics.

  95. #95 Mena
    February 27, 2007

    Yet another example of someone yelling loudly about being a Christian because no one would ever know it from the way he or she acts.

  96. #96 Molly, NYC
    February 27, 2007

    NB, This story was from a local news site, so it must have been considered noteworthy–even in Bakersfield, the home of the looney-toons at Free Republic. Dr. Too-pious-for-words isn’t going to lose only patients whose parents have tats–he, and everyone else at “Christian Medical Services” will quite likely lose a huge chunk of business because of the resulting bad publicity (including referrals); PZ isn’t the only one who finds this sort of thing offensive.

    As someone else noted, the mother didn’t pick this jackass out of a hat, she was referred to him by her insurance company, so the insurance company may be potentially liable. I imagine that the insurer will publicly issue a CYA statement about doctors being entitled to do whatever they damn please, but privately, the practice may have to do some fast talking to keep their contract from being dropped (and not just their Healthnet of California contract either; any insurer would be leery of such behaviour).

    A few years from now, this doc will be lucky to get a job as a morgue diener.

  97. #97 Kristine
    February 27, 2007

    I think “Dr. Pharisee” is a better nick than “Dr. Philistine

    Probably so, but I like “Dr. Philistine” because I can’t stand Dr. Phil. ;-)

  98. #98 Kristine
    February 27, 2007

    Oh, sorry, I didn’t see this comment: Plus, the more common view of “Philistine” these days is one who doesn’t appreciate art or aesthetics.

    That’s also why I thought it appropriate.

  99. #99 Patrick
    February 27, 2007

    Hairhead writes:

    Denial of medical service is an assault,

    Yeah, just like atheism is a religion.

    Patrick

  100. #100 Dark Matter
    February 27, 2007

    From the article:

    She said Dr. Gary Merrill wouldn’t treat her daughter for an ear infection because Tasha, the mother, has tattoos.
    The writing is on the wall–literally: “This is a private office. Appearance and behavior standards apply.”
    For Dr. Gary Merrill of Christian Medical Services, that means no tattoos, body piercings, and a host of other requirements–all standards Merrill has set based upon his Christian faith.

    What Would Jesus Do?

    Matthew 4:18-23 (King James Version)

    18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

    19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

    20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.

    21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.

    22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.

    23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

    Jesus needs to come back and start kickin’ some butt…starting
    with the “good” doctor…

  101. #101 Kagehi
    February 27, 2007

    Yikes!! Since when did the entirely *right wing* idiocy of, “I won’t treat those people because they look, act, think, come from, live near, etc, something that I find offensive, or if you insist on making me, they can sit in the back of the bus!”, bullshit become a defensible liberal position? Oh wait, I forget, for people like Patrick (Why did I have to share my real name with this idiot…) racism, classism, etc. are no nos, unless its also something that offends **them**. The moment something does, like someone dressing in Goth or having a tatoo, its right back to the days Rosa Parks, and not one damn thing the left fought for or against back then matters.

  102. #102 RedMolly
    February 27, 2007

    The tatooed patient who was not hassled about her tats appeared to be several rungs up the class ladder from the rejected mom.

    Ah, so apparently the good doctor is appealing to an argumentum ad redneckum. Excellent for keeping your clinic waiting room free of those undesirable elements who might challenge the sense-of-rightness of your well-scrubbed, Jesus-oriented, Bush-voting soccer-brood clientele. He’s not imposing an indefensible prejudice on his patients; he’s doing it For The Kids.

    (My older son attends a public school which draws primarily from middle- to upper-middle-class neighborhoods… except for a small group of low-income housing units. You should see the way parents from “the apartments” get treated by the PTA mommies.)

  103. #103 Sonja
    February 27, 2007

    Most people I know with tattoos are people who have to do the trendy, follow-the-crowd, peer-pressure, can’t-think-for-themselves, latest thing.

    That doesn’t sound like PZ.

    But in case you’re wondering, here’s how it might turn out.

  104. #104 Kyra
    February 27, 2007

    Ummm . . . not wanting to read through a hundred-odd comments to find out, has anyone else pointed out that Jesus has a few body piercings? Huge ones, in fact, and right out in the open, in his hands and feet.

  105. #105 Steve_C
    February 27, 2007

    That’s kinda badass Sonja.

    I’ve always thought that Octopodes make great tattoos.

  106. #106 Evolving Squid
    February 27, 2007

    The moment something does, like someone dressing in Goth or having a tatoo, its right back to the days Rosa Parks, and not one damn thing the left fought for or against back then matters.

    If you can’t see the difference between having dark skin and dressing Goth, then truly there is no hope for you.

  107. #107 Kristine
    February 27, 2007

    You should see the way parents from “the apartments” get treated by the PTA mommies.)

    Oh, now we’re getting somewhere. Anybody I know who’s ever lived in a trailor park ain’t good enough for Dr. Philistine. Didn’t I say something yesterday about class distinctions hardening in America?

    Did anyone see the PBS special Country Boys, that followed the lives of two young men attending a school for at-risk youth in rural Kentucky? There was a chilling scene about evolution in class (the science teacher said it was a lie), but I totally identified with the kids when they talked about how they were perceived as “hicks” and written off. And one of the boys was a tattooed Christian goth punk rocker! I didn’t agree with his religious views but he was a damn good kid (pun intended) and he made it out–he got out of dodge, and is successful now, and I hate to think of him encountering “Christians” like Dr. Merrill.

  108. #108 MJ Memphis
    February 27, 2007

    “Would you or would you not legally require the doctor to treat the child in these circumstances? If the answer is yes and the doctor refused, would you or would you not use the legal system to prevent the doctor from practicing medicine in the future?”

    I would say that assuming it was not an emergency, the doctor should not be required to treat the child, but should be required to give a referral. And his medical license should not be revoked based on this policy. However, he should be ineligible to receive any federal Medicare payments (or, for that matter, any other federal money) or to hold hospital privileges at any institution which receives any federal funding. I support the right of jerks to be jerks, within the limit of law, but not to do so while receiving government support.

  109. #109 Madam Pomfrey
    February 27, 2007

    Putting aside all the abstract philosophical discussions about “the power of the state,” etc., look at the simple reality of what happened here. This is a man who deliberately turned his back on a suffering child that he had the capability to heal, because of an obsession with tattoos. Clearly this is an indication of an unbalanced personality, not just general “assholery.” This is tantamount to a doctor refusing to treat a kid because the mom was wearing red shoes. If nothing else, this person should be subject to a psychiatric investigation.

  110. #110 ?????
    February 27, 2007

    I guess if the Hippocratic Oath requires him to “swear by Apollo, ∆sculapius, Hygieia, and Panacea” then it really doesn’t apply to a Christian. Nice loophole. ;-)

  111. #111 ?????
    February 27, 2007

    I guess if the Hippocratic Oath requires him to “swear by Apollo, ∆sculapius, Hygieia, and Panacea” then it really doesn’t apply to a Christian. Nice loophole. ;-)

  112. #112 Larry
    February 27, 2007

    Maybe, next time, that little girl will choose her mother more wisely.

  113. #113 Graculus
    February 27, 2007

    But in case you’re wondering, here’s how it might turn out.

    That was disappointingly work-safe. I was expecting something more along these lines. (Safe but disturbing, PZ’s already linked to it once)

  114. #114 Slacker Ninja
    February 27, 2007

    The doctor is within is rights. You can’t infringe on his free agency (the make your own decisions, free will kind. Not the baseball kind) However, see no reason why his decisions shouldn’t have consequences.

    Bad press, the condemnation of his peers in the medical community, having people remind him what an ass he is all the time, these are all completely free and effective responses.

    Free speech lets you be a jerk, but it also lets me call you one.

  115. #115 boojum
    February 27, 2007

    Thanks for the address, AgnosticOracle.

    I’m going with a simple postcard quoting Mark 10:14:

    “But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”

  116. #116 John Marley
    February 27, 2007

    I briefly got into this on Orac’s blog a while ago.

    I think some people here are conflating thier own feelings about how things should be with ethical behavior.

    I agree with Evolving Squid, and Slacker Ninja. The doctor is a jerk for refusing to treat a child for such a pathetic reason. But it isn’t unethical. If it was his business, he has the right to refuse service. It probably isn’t very smart, as he’s almost certainly going to lose more patients than the child in question, but it’s still his choice.

  117. #117 John Marley
    February 27, 2007

    Correction, it was on Mike Dunford’s blog. Sorry to both of you.

  118. #118 Graculus
    February 27, 2007

    The doctor is within is rights. You can’t infringe on his free agency

    Of his own free agency he put himself under the umbrella of state and professional agencies. Of his own free agency he took an oath. And if he didn’t like the guiding principles contained therein, then he could have chosen another profession, or practiced in some Libertarian paradise like Somalia.

  119. #119 Robert Herrick
    February 27, 2007

    The reason this doctor is wrong and the reason one cannot brush him off as just being another small business man is due to his power! I would agree with some of these comments if the parent and doctor were equal and they didn’t want to work together but the parent did not choose this doctor (referred by her insurance provider), was not a medical trained professional and so unable to adequately diagnose her daughter’s problem, and cannot order prescription medications. You need a doctor for these things, he held the position of authority and he abused it! Simple as that!

  120. #120 386sx
    February 27, 2007

    You need a doctor for these things, he held the position of authority and he abused it! Simple as that!

    Jesus turns down billions of people every day, and it don’t get more “position of authority” than that, so I really don’t see what the big deal is. :-)

  121. #121 John Mruzik
    February 27, 2007

    I might just mention that I am suppose to list charges based on wht I do, I often lower the complexity of the diagnosis to save the un-insured patient some money I am often overruled by high school greads. Many of my Chritian Friends have no such difficluly.
    Jmruzik MD

  122. #122 Caledonian
    February 28, 2007

    The doctor is a jerk for refusing to treat a child for such a pathetic reason. But it isn’t unethical.

    Some people here feel that everything they don’t like must obviously be forbidden – and if it’s not yet, that can and should be changed.

  123. #123 Millimeter Wave
    February 28, 2007

    Caledonian,
    I’m not sure about that; I think many people here are drawing a distinction between “forbidden” and “unethical”. I think it was stated at least once earlier that some behavior being unethical does not imply any suggestion that there should be laws against it (and I agree).

  124. #124 tihson
    February 28, 2007

    This brings up an interesting dilemma that has been facing hospitals along the border with Mexico. Pregnant women cross into the U.S., summarily giving birth to their children in American hospitals. American taxpayers by the way, have been unwittingly subsidizing this practice for years now and American doctors have done what their obligation to humanity entails. Maybe according to the letter of the law, the good doctor has no obligation to render his services indiscriminately, but come on, how about joining the human race? Socialized medicine anyone? I can’t imagine anything like this happening anywhere else in the industrialized world…

  125. #125 AZe
    February 28, 2007

    The doctor’s actions were not illegal and not a violation of the AMA code. They were, however, morally repulsive. Going to the media and exposing the doctor to public shame was the only recourse.

    Geez, talk about the woman being a freak because of tattoos, the doctor is an even worse freak! Just because his creepy freakishness is on the inside doesn’t make him “normal.” Now his deformed mind is exposed on TV. The moral of the story is, if you’re going to be a freak on the inside, expect to be treated like one – sooner or later.

  126. #126 Bill Dauphin
    February 28, 2007

    I’m not rejoining this debate… at least not directly… but as a related aside, here’s what can happen when people are denied even apparently non-emergency health care.

    Admittedly the barrier to care in this case was insurance (or lack thereof) rather than a small-minded practitioner, but the outcome is chilling. IMHO, we must treat access to health care as a civil right… and we must start treating it so as soon as possible.

  127. #127 Captain C
    February 28, 2007

    “‘Denial of medical service is an assault,’

    Yeah, just like atheism is a religion.

    Patrick”

    Please list and explain any isomorphisms.

  128. #128 Kagehi
    February 28, 2007

    If you can’t see the difference between having dark skin and dressing Goth, then truly there is no hope for you.

    And if you think the civil right movement was *only* about skin color and not general prejudices based on both things you can and can’t change, then you are even more beyond hope than I am.

  129. #129 David Marjanovi?
    February 28, 2007

    Patrick, I’ll summarize comment 103 for you: My freedom ends where yours begins, and vice versa.

    It’s that simple.

  130. #130 David Marjanovi?
    February 28, 2007

    Patrick, I’ll summarize comment 103 for you: My freedom ends where yours begins, and vice versa.

    It’s that simple.

  131. #131 Caledonian
    February 28, 2007

    IMHO, we must treat access to health care as a civil right…

    Just wonderful. What else shall we declare a civil right? Having stuff as nice as everyone else’s? Not being offended by anyone else’s words or actions? I know – let’s declare happiness itself to be a civil right!

  132. #132 Tom Foss
    February 28, 2007

    Just wonderful. What else shall we declare a civil right? Having stuff as nice as everyone else’s? Not being offended by anyone else’s words or actions? I know – let’s declare happiness itself to be a civil right!

    I’m not sure why you’re opposed to making access to health care a civil right, Caledonian. There’s not much you can do to exercise your other civil rights if you’re dead. Seems to me that it’s more or less included in that first unalienable right: “Life.”

    Oh, and you may be unaware of the last member of that little list: The Pursuit of Happiness. Yes, FSM forbid we make that an unalienable right. Who knows what could happen.

  133. #133 Caledonian
    February 28, 2007

    Mr. Foss, you fail at American civics. I hope you’re not a citizen of our horrible country, because that would at least give you an excuse for your ignorance. Your not-thinking, less so.

  134. #134 H. Humbert
    March 1, 2007

    Oh, Jesus, Cal. Fine, don’t call health care a “right.” Let’s just call it a basic human necessity that the government should provide for pragmatic and humanitarian reasons.

  135. #135 Millimeter Wave
    March 1, 2007

    Caledonian,
    excuse me for failing to understand the subtlety that is no doubt contained in your response, but I didn’t quite see the rebuttal argument you made beyond “nyah nyah, I’m right and you’re wrong, so there”. Could you perhaps enlighten me a little?

  136. #136 Kseniya
    March 1, 2007

    The doctor’s actions were not illegal and not a violation of the AMA code.

    Perhaps not. Now, what if the doctor had refused to see the girl because her mother was …

    An atheist, a Muslim, a Hindu, or a Buddist. Or Korean, or Iranian. Or French. Or obese, or bald.

    What if the girl had been brought in by her aged Jewish grandmother, who happened to have a tattoo on her arm? What if the tattoo was nothing more provocative than, say, a serial number?

    Caledonian, why shouldn’t ACCESS to health care be considered a right? On what basis would you grant, or restrict, access? On the basis of income? Race? Personal grooming? Political leanings? Religion? Shoe size? If a doctor can refuse to see a patient for some arbitrary reason, what’s to prevent all doctors from refusing to see the same patient for the same arbitrary reason?

  137. #137 autumn
    March 1, 2007

    I am not jumping to the conclusion that E.squid needs or wants my support, but I am forced to comment because so many of us seem to have lost our ability to argue rationally. Yes, if a patient has no other options, due to the emergent situation or the byzantine insurance situation or any situation where care could not be readily obtained, any doctor should treat them. Yes, if an appointment was agreed to, the doctor does have a responsibility to treat that patient. Yes, this doctor is an ass.
    Those things aside, if there are no issues of the doctor recieving tax funding, he has the absoloute right to refuse service to anyone for any reason, except those reasons explicated in portions of the law dealing with discrimination.

    Again, and with emphasis, THIS DOCTOR IS AN ASS.

    As to the freak thing, I must point out that I formerly sported a six inch mohawk. I made the decision to cultivate this monstrosity, and I often was treated rather shabbily because of it. I found this more amusing than offensive, as I understood that the way one presents one’s self in public is often the way that one will be percieved. This is a fact of biology and inductive reasoning. I am reminded of the time in high school when a juvenile delinquint buddy of mine said something about skateboarding not being a crime. I replied, “you’re right, but so many of you skateboarders are criminals”.
    They were mistaking the fact that they commited crimes often compared to the community’s non-skateboarders with the perception that they were being singled out for some reason other than their criminality.

  138. #138 Woah
    March 1, 2007

    Kseniya, It’s eaiser to debate what Actually happened instead of playing silly “What If?” games.

  139. #139 Caledonian
    March 1, 2007

    I should really take a break from reading this site, considering how bad it is for my sense of humility.

    You are utterly missing the argument. The point is not that health care is a right which can be granted or withheld – the point is that even viewing it as a right is profoundly problematic.

    It’s like you can’t grasp the idea that there are things which might be deeply desirable, even necessary, and not “rights”.

  140. #140 Bill Dauphin
    March 1, 2007

    Caledonian, I think your sense of humility should be entirely unthreatened by this thread. Your abrupt comment that “Mr. Foss, you fail at American civics” was unaccompanied by any rationale or explanation of what you meant… but I’ll take the risk of guessing what you were getting at.

    I imagine you were suggesting Tom didn’t know the difference between the Declaration of Indepence and the Constitution. I imagine that because that seems to always be the snark du jour whenever anyone refers to the “unalienable rights” clause of the former.

    Well, guess what? Some of us know that the Declaration is not the Constitution, and that it doesn’t have the force of law, and yet we’re strangely reluctant to throw it out with last week’s newspapers. Go figure, eh?

    Look, the Declaration is our foundational document. It’s the original, and most basic, statement of why the United States exists. The Constitution realizes the principles embodied in the Declaration; it doesn’t repeal or replace them. And Tom’s quoting the Declaration doesn’t mean he’s ignorant of, or unthinking about, “American civics.” Disagreeing with him is, of course, fair game; calling him stupid and/or ignorant is not (even if you had some basis for the charge, calling him stupid and/or ignorant so bluntly would be rude, and not conducive to meaningful conversation).

    As to our “unalienable” right to life…. Well, you can take the strict constructionist view that “life” is a purely binary value (alive/dead) if you want. Let’s all turn to Number 681 in the Joe Strummer hymnal (“You have the right/Not to be killed!”). But it’s neither stupid nor ignorant of those of us who disagree to take a more fullsome view. It’s been common throughout human history to consider health a fundamental value… and a fundamental ingredient of life. Given that the context also refers to “the pursuit of happiness,” it’s really not a stretch to imagine the Founders would have agreed.

    Look, if your argument is that we shouldn’t enshrine every trivial little nice-to-have thing as a “right,” I agree with you 100%. But my point — and (to my discredit) this is a fairly recent evolution in my thinking — is that access to health care… Hell, health care itself… is not just another trivial little nice-to-have thing, but is instead a fundamental, inextricable element of “life.”

    I have the great good fortune to have very good health insurance, and it’s easy for people in my situation (perhaps yours as well; I don’t know) to forget how central good health is to having a life or pursuing happiness. But it’s also easy for me, personally, to remember, because if I hadn’t had that insurance, my daughter would probably have died, and my life, and my wife’s, would have been irremediably shattered.

    We are, even after the depradations of our recent leaders, the richest nation in the history of the world: We can afford to treat health care as a human right if we want to badly enough. If we don’t want to badly enough, shame on us.

  141. #141 Publicus
    March 1, 2007

    This guy isn’t so much a doctor as a faith healer.

  142. #142 Jon
    March 1, 2007

    Got this website from Richard Dawkins site.

    Whole argument comes down to what is the relationship between rights (freedoms) and responsiblities.

    The balance exists in all countries but it does exist and is certainly not absolute.
    I personally believe there are no freedoms without responsibilities and not everything life is a free choice.

    If you choose to live in a society you are forced to do things (you have some influence in those laws) but you are still forced to do them and that is a good thing. Not everything in life is about ‘choice’

    Interestingly enough in some countries (France) not aiding some one is injured (even if you are not medically trained) is a criminal act. You are require to either give first aid or try to find someone who can. Good samaritans laws which they tried to charge journalists with after the death of Princess Diana. They were found innocent as they did actually call the police (after taking a few photo’s)

  143. #143 Jaycubed
    March 1, 2007

    The World Medical Association’s Declaration of Geneva outlining the ethical duties of Doctors is far stronger than the AMA’s. This was most directly due to the heinous activities of “good Doctors” during the Nazi era.

    The Declaration of Geneva reads:

    At the time of being admitted as a member of the medical profession:

    I solemnly pledge to consecrate my life to the service of humanity;

    I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude that is their due;

    I will practice my profession with conscience and dignity;

    The health of my patient will be my first consideration;

    I will respect the secrets that are confided in me, even after the patient has died;

    I will maintain by all the means in my power, the honour and the noble traditions of the medical profession;

    My colleagues will be my sisters and brothers;

    I will not permit considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient;

    I will maintain the utmost respect for human life;

    I will not use my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat;

    I make these promises solemnly, freely and upon my honour.

    But to Americans, general ethics are trumped by commerce. I suspect that the Doctor’s refusal to treat this patient was due more to it being a low paid HMO referral rather than to his Christian so-called ethics. Especially since he treats other patients who have tattoos. I suspect this is a Doctor took the Hypocritic Oath.

  144. #144 Mel
    March 1, 2007

    I would take my child to a doctor with “Christian” in the name of his practice in a heartbeat if he was known to be the best pediatrician in town, the only one who would accept my particular health insurance, or the one who could see my sick child the soonest.

    As a former sufferer of chronic childhood ear infections, I can attest to the excruciating pain. It may not be life-threatening, but it’s not something I’d expect a fellow human being to live with for one more minute if I could help it. An ethical doctor with real Christian values, no matter what the mother looked or acted like, would have treated the child’s immediate problem and then politely referred her to another doctor for follow-up.

    Whether or not he has the right to turn away patients based on their parents’ appearance is kind of beside the point. Just because one has the right to do something doesn’t make it the right thing to do. In the nineteenth century, parents had every legal right to physically abuse their children however they saw fit. Maybe Merrill can’t face any formal discipline or legal action, but he can and should be judged harshly by his peers and the public. I sincerely hope that the publicity from this causes him to lose a good number of his regular patients.

  145. #145 Tom Foss
    March 1, 2007

    Mr. Foss, you fail at American civics. I hope you’re not a citizen of our horrible country, because that would at least give you an excuse for your ignorance. Your not-thinking, less so.

    Actually, I’ve always done quite well in Civics and Political Science class. I’m not sure what your objection is, since you, as usual, have called another person stupid without elaborating on your position in the slightest degree, but I’ll assume as Bill Dauphin did that your objection is on the grounds that the Declaration doesn’t have the legal weight of the Constitution. We’ll leave aside the fact that it elucidates the principles which served as the foundation of the nation, and I’ll turn instead to the Constitution. Well, more specifically, the Bill of Rights, and that poor neglected Ninth Amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” Just because the Constitution only lists a few basic rights doesn’t mean that the people don’t have others.

    I’m not entirely certain why you see the acknowledgement of access to healthcare as a basic human right as “problematic.” It certainly seems to work out fine for just about every other industrialized nation on the planet. I don’t see how “access to health care” is more problematic as a right than “reasonable access to privacy” or “peaceful assembly” or “bearing arms.” It’s a civil right to be able to access devices with which to injure and kill others, but just “deeply desirable” to be able to access care to treat those injuries?

  146. #146 David Marjanovi?
    March 1, 2007

    Just wonderful. What else shall we declare a civil right? Having stuff as nice as everyone else’s? Not being offended by anyone else’s words or actions?

    Oh grumpy misanthrope, have a short look at any First World country, and you’ll see that the Slippery Slope is a logical fallacy.

    On the irony of having an American deny the pursuit of happiness, I’m with comment 163.

    Interestingly enough in some countries (France) not aiding some one is injured (even if you are not medically trained) is a criminal act.

    What? You mean it is not in the USA?

    (Not that I knew anything, except that it is in Austria, but I wouldn’t have thought cultural differences within “The West” can go that far…)

  147. #147 David Marjanovi?
    March 1, 2007

    Just wonderful. What else shall we declare a civil right? Having stuff as nice as everyone else’s? Not being offended by anyone else’s words or actions?

    Oh grumpy misanthrope, have a short look at any First World country, and you’ll see that the Slippery Slope is a logical fallacy.

    On the irony of having an American deny the pursuit of happiness, I’m with comment 163.

    Interestingly enough in some countries (France) not aiding some one is injured (even if you are not medically trained) is a criminal act.

    What? You mean it is not in the USA?

    (Not that I knew anything, except that it is in Austria, but I wouldn’t have thought cultural differences within “The West” can go that far…)

  148. #148 Pygmy Loris
    March 1, 2007

    I quit reading the comments at #128, so forgive me if those last few said something about this:

    Patrick,

    Your insane libertarianism doesn’t work in the real world! That’s why we had the Civil Rights Act and several other government “coercion” measures had to be instituted and supported by penalties that effectively force people to behave in a certain manner.

    Some professions do (or should) have obligations to “the people” that may run contrary to an individual’s personal proclivities. Individuals have the freedom to choose or not choose those professions. After freely choosing such profession, society does have the right to govern certain aspects of professional behavior. This does not impinge on individual rights.

    Individual rights must be balanced against not only the rights of others, but also against the rights of society as a whole, the possible negative consequences of such acts and so forth. For instance, peaceful cooporations do not have the right to spew unlimited amounts of poison into the air because that impinges on the rights of others to have breathable air regardless of the aggression level of the cooporation or immediate threat to an individual.

    The Endangered Species Act was adopted for similar reasons and society’s rights are at the core of the National Parks Program. That is, the rights of society to have some areas where development can only take place within strict regulations so as to enjoy the natural world trumped the individual rights of people to build whatever they want whereever they want.

    Sometimes society’s rights trump individual rights even without physical harm or impingement on an individual’s rights.

    As for the relevant case, the rights of people to assume that a doctor on their medical insurance will provide treatment for a dangerous medical condition trumps the right of the doctor to refuse treatment to people he considers unworthy.

    Libertarianism doesn’t work! Get over it!

  149. #149 Caledonian
    March 1, 2007

    On the irony of having an American deny the pursuit of happiness, I’m with comment 163.

    Arrogance and stupidity all in one package – and I presume the lack of reading comprehension is just gravy.

  150. #150 Tom Foss
    March 1, 2007

    Arrogance and stupidity all in one package – and I presume the lack of reading comprehension is just gravy.

    Irony, thy name is Caledonian.

  151. #151 Caledonian
    March 1, 2007

    Don’t “irony” me. You can’t even understand the arguments enough to respond to even a close approximation of them.

  152. #152 Tom Foss
    March 2, 2007

    I went to the Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolphus in 2005, where the theme was on the legacy of Einstein. At the dinner, they had a wine called Relativity. I didn’t partake, but the others in the group reacted favorably.

    I don’t know if I’d take their word for it, however. I doubt the taste stays constant from bottle to bottle.

  153. #153 Tom Foss
    March 2, 2007

    D’oh…wrong thread. That’ll teach me to have multiple windows open.

  154. #154 Jon
    March 2, 2007

    Regarding ‘good samaritan laws’, I don’t the US or the majority of countries have any laws that require someone to act if they find someone injured . I’m British and I know we don’t have any except in car accidents.

    Its a morally good idea but very hard to enforce or frame properly. The Princess Diana photographers were very close to the line on this law but were never charged.

    I do know that any doctor that left a patient in pain for anything other some seriously solid reasons (like he was seeing another patient) would not be practising again in the UK

  155. #155 Caledonian
    March 2, 2007

    There’s that much-hyped sense of humility, I take it?

    Do you actually believe in the existence of your strawmen, or is it merely a cynical attempt to manipulate others? I’ve never claimed to be humble, or even to perceive humility as a virtue.

    Meanwhile, you can’t address arguments that you’re not careful enough to perceive. So it goes…

  156. #156 Bill Dauphin
    March 2, 2007

    Caledonian:

    There’s that much-hyped sense of humility, I take it?

    Do you actually believe in the existence of your strawmen, or is it merely a cynical attempt to manipulate others? I’ve never claimed to be humble, or even to perceive humility as a virtue.

    Hmmm…. [Wayne waves his hands in the air and says "diddle-iddle-eet" over and over to indicate a flashback]:

    I should really take a break from reading this site, considering how bad it is for my sense of humility.

    Funny how your cryptic snark is apparently witty in your mind, but others’ arguably less cryptic snark needs to be subjected to rigorous logical analysis. Since turnabout is allegedly fair play, I’ll ask you how the dull-witted rest of us can be damaging the “sense of humility” you now claim not to have? Jus’ wonderin’…

    I know it’s somewhat meta to critique debating style, but I’ve noticed in you a penchant for tossing out terse, haughty criticisms that don’t actually say with any clarity what you think is wrong with others’ argument, but manage to insult your correspondents’ intelligence.

    You probably are as smart as you not-so-humbly think you are… but my observation is that the Pharyngula commenter crowd is pretty damn smart, too. Actually engaging their ideas, rather than showering them with imperious pissiness, might be a skosh more enlightening.

    Party on, Cal!

  157. #157 Tom Foss
    March 2, 2007

    Do you actually believe in the existence of your strawmen, or is it merely a cynical attempt to manipulate others? I’ve never claimed to be humble, or even to perceive humility as a virtue.

    Perhaps I’m misreading your comment at #161, specifically:

    I should really take a break from reading this site, considering how bad it is for my sense of humility.

    Please, since you’re so much smarter than me, enlighten me on my terrible misreading.
    I’ve read every post you made in this thread, and the closest you ever came to anything resembling an “argument” rather than a “glib, smug reassertion of intellectual superiority” was this:

    The point is not that health care is a right which can be granted or withheld – the point is that even viewing it as a right is profoundly problematic.
    It’s like you can’t grasp the idea that there are things which might be deeply desirable, even necessary, and not “rights”.

    You never elaborated on this, and you never responded to any questions about it, except to belittle those who would deign to comment. You are not engaging in dialogue, Caledonian, you are engaging in a hit-and-run monologue. You have addressed no concerns, you have made no substantial points, and you have not elucidated your position in the slightest. I think you’ll find that the commenters here are plenty intelligent and quite capable of understanding any argument you could possibly make, should you actually choose to make one. So far, you have merely made off-hand remarks and assumed that anyone who does not immediately share all your opinions on the subject must be stupid. It’s not a matter of being too careless to perceive your arguments, it’s a matter of not being telepathic.

    If you’d like to expand on your point, feel free to do so. If you’d like to engage other people in conversation and debate, by all means, join in. If you want to explain the reasoning by which viewing “access to health care” as a right is problematic, while “access to guns” is not, I’m all ears. If you’d like to continue verbally masturbating, please confine it to private spaces. It’s easy to claim your mental superiority, it’s significantly harder to back it up with evidence. Put up or shut up, Cal.

  158. #158 dejah
    March 2, 2007

    Incidentally, I don’t think The Good Samaritan is the right story to liken this incident to. If it was me, I would be reminding this doctor of the man who said “I’m not worthy” and Jesus healed him anyway.

    Jesus didn’t refuse to heal lepers (the unclean freaks of his time). Jesus healed the sinners. He ate with tax collectors. He protected women accused of adultery/prostitution.

    It seems to me that this doctor is not just a bad doctor, or a bad person, he’s a HONKING bad Christian.

  159. #159 Caledonian
    March 2, 2007

    Funny how your cryptic snark is apparently witty in your mind, but others’ arguably less cryptic snark needs to be subjected to rigorous logical analysis.

    Buddy, you have problems.

    No hype; no assertion of possession; excepting a very faint implied claim, no claim that it’s valuable.

    I love it when people loudly proclaim the general intelligence and knowledge of the Pharyngula crowd as a group, but defend individuals who can’t distinguish between a right to happiness and a right to the pursuit of happiness.

  160. #160 Kseniya
    March 2, 2007

    “Woah” – Quite true, and you’re welcome to take the easy path, if you like, but debating the doctor’s actions as well as their implications seems worthwhile to me.

    “Caledonian” – It’s interesting that you mention humility, since you exhibit none. You’re an interesting voice on this board, and you have a way of keeping us honest that I do appreciate, but your lapses into myopic arrogance wear thin. I’d say it’s you who doesn’t get the argument. It’s not about whether or not access to health care is a right, but whether or not it should be. It’s really that simple.

    If you don’t think it should be a right, that’s fine. But parading around as if you’re the only person here who even gets what we’re talking about borders on bad comedy.

    Remember, once upon a time, and not so long ago, there were no “inalienable” rights at all. Once upon a time, and not so long ago, women couldn’t vote. And so on. I’m sure I don’t have to paint a picture for you. Needs develop, and societies evolve. That’s what we’re talking about. (Or were, until this degenerated into a snarkfest.)

  161. #161 Caledonian
    March 2, 2007

    It’s not about whether or not access to health care is a right, but whether or not it should be. It’s really that simple.

    You’re not comprehending. It, by its nature, cannot be given the status of a “right”. Whether it would be nice to have if it were possible is another matter – it’s not possible in the first place. Legally-granted rights all share certain properties, and exclude certain properties. “Having access to health care” lacks some of the necessary properties and contains some of the incompatible properties – so it can’t be a right.

    Whether society ought to provide universal health care is a completely different question, totally unrelated to the issue of rights, save solely that if universal care is provided, it cannot be denied without good cause.

  162. #162 Kseniya
    March 2, 2007

    That’s what I call a reasonable response. Thank you.

  163. #163 Caledonian
    March 2, 2007

    They’ve all been reasonable. It’s just that idiots have been responding to them. I swear, if you people would take the time to actually think about what others say instead of mentally wallpapering them with what you expect them to argue, most of our problems would be utterly obviated.

  164. #164 Tom Foss
    March 2, 2007

    No hype; no assertion of possession; excepting a very faint implied claim, no claim that it’s valuable.

    For someone who has criticized others on matters of grammar and semantics, I’d expect you to know that the word “my,” as in “my sense of humility,” is possessive, and therefore is an assertion of possession. Whether or not it has value is unimportant; you’re the one who brought it up, so it clearly has some importance to you.

    I love it when people loudly proclaim the general intelligence and knowledge of the Pharyngula crowd as a group, but defend individuals who can’t distinguish between a right to happiness and a right to the pursuit of happiness.

    See, now, if you had said something like that, instead of “you fail at civics,” this would be a very different conversation. I can absolutely make such a distinction, now that you’ve made your earlier comment more clear. Isn’t dialogue useful?

    Now, what I fail to see is how “happiness” (a subjective quantity which cannot be reasonably provided by the government, nor should be expected from it) is connected to “access to health care” (freedom to use a service which could reasonably be provided by the government). Seems like the right to pursue happiness has a lot more in common with the right to access healthcare, than the right to “happiness” does.

    You’re not comprehending. It, by its nature, cannot be given the status of a “right”. Whether it would be nice to have if it were possible is another matter – it’s not possible in the first place. Legally-granted rights all share certain properties, and exclude certain properties. “Having access to health care” lacks some of the necessary properties and contains some of the incompatible properties – so it can’t be a right.

    What certain properties are shared and excluded by all legally-granted rights? What are the necessary properties for something to be considered a potential right?

    They’ve all been reasonable. It’s just that idiots have been responding to them.

    No, there’s nothing reasonable about calling people idiots for replying to you and asking you questions. There’s nothing reasonable about expecting other people to understand your points of view when you make absolutely no substantive arguments. There is nothing reasonable about immediately assuming and repeatedly proclaiming your intellectual superiority over anyone, especially based on such cursory and one-sided contact.

    In other words, there’s nothing reasonable about being an asshole.

    I swear, if you people would take the time to actually think about what others say instead of mentally wallpapering them with what you expect them to argue, most of our problems would be utterly obviated.

    Words you would do well to follow yourself. If you would actually read people’s points and comments, rather than assuming that they’re beneath you, most of your problems would be utterly obviated.

  165. #165 Caledonian
    March 2, 2007

    Whether or not it has value is unimportant; you’re the one who brought it up, so it clearly has some importance to you.

    Y’know what? I wouldn’t dream of arguing the point with you. I concede.

  166. #166 David Marjanovi?
    March 3, 2007

    distinguish between a right to happiness and a right to the pursuit of happiness.

    Oh! You’ve started to explain what you mean! Progress! Yesterday you merely kept repeating the fact that we didn’t understand what you meant and did nothing to change that state of affairs.

    So, then. I think that having the right to access to universal healthcare is a prerequisite for the right of the pursuit of happiness. If we keep in mind that universal healtcare, although not feasible in the late 18th century when the Declaration of Independence was written, is feasible now, don’t you agree?

  167. #167 David Marjanovi?
    March 3, 2007

    distinguish between a right to happiness and a right to the pursuit of happiness.

    Oh! You’ve started to explain what you mean! Progress! Yesterday you merely kept repeating the fact that we didn’t understand what you meant and did nothing to change that state of affairs.

    So, then. I think that having the right to access to universal healthcare is a prerequisite for the right of the pursuit of happiness. If we keep in mind that universal healtcare, although not feasible in the late 18th century when the Declaration of Independence was written, is feasible now, don’t you agree?

  168. #168 Caledonian
    March 3, 2007

    You’ve just demonstrated that restating the point in even simpler terms led to no more understanding on your part than before.

    Shall I refute each of your errors? Where should I start – with the misconception about what “pursuit of happiness” means? With the idea that granting a right means that the means of putting that right into practice? Which fatal error that reduces your argument to a smear of nonsense should I begin with? What’s the point? Each time you respond with an even greater number of inanities. The work for me increases exponentially.

    That’s a very common tactic among the Creationists and IDists – not that it’s inherent to them, mind you. It’s a common tactic among all sorts of fools seeking to disguise their ignorance and attack knowledge.

  169. #169 David Marjanovi?
    March 3, 2007

    Shall I refute each of your errors?

    Yes, please.

    In fact, I’m appalled at how you dare suggest I’m using a “tactic”. Do you think everyone is an asshole unless proven otherwise!?! I consider it obvious that I explain everything I know if necessary, and I expect everyone to expect that of me. What for are you a scientist if you don’t explain your assumptions, hypotheses, and conclusions?

  170. #170 David Marjanovi?
    March 3, 2007

    Shall I refute each of your errors?

    Yes, please.

    In fact, I’m appalled at how you dare suggest I’m using a “tactic”. Do you think everyone is an asshole unless proven otherwise!?! I consider it obvious that I explain everything I know if necessary, and I expect everyone to expect that of me. What for are you a scientist if you don’t explain your assumptions, hypotheses, and conclusions?

  171. #171 David Marjanovi?
    March 4, 2007

    Then I apologize, but still, from your general behavior in discussions I can’t help think that your standards for “serious evidence” are very low on this subject…

  172. #172 David Marjanovi?
    March 4, 2007

    Then I apologize, but still, from your general behavior in discussions I can’t help think that your standards for “serious evidence” are very low on this subject…

  173. #173 Monado
    March 4, 2007

    Guys, guys–of course you send signals all the time and your clothing, hair styles, posture, and movements all contribute. It’s also true that many people, at one time in their lives, dress in conformance to an outgroup–whether because that’s all they see around them or because they want to be treated as outsiders. But according to egalitarian ideals, they’re all entitled to whatever medical treatment is standard in their communities. [I loved it, years ago, when someone pointed out that "Samaritan" has no juice in it any more and the story should now be The Good Communist, The Good Negro, or The Good Homosexual.]

    What struck me about the story, other than the arbitrary discrimination, was that it was against a past decision. (One of the thriving aestheric services of the future is going to be removing tattoos that people acquired in their foolish youth.) It’s faintly defensible to ask people to wash, dress nicely, wear shoes, stand up straight, or whatever your personal social fetish happens to be–although it’s not defensible not to refuse them medical treatment if they don’t. But to ask people not to have made a decision that you don’t like several years ago is not. Correcting that calls for Dr. Who’s TARDIS.

    Lest you think it’s never happened to me, I have actually been turned away from a restaurant for not wearing a skirt, been required to wear skirts at work, and suffered through five Canadian winters (Grades 9 – 13) at a high school with a dress code that required girls to wear skirts–and asked why I was applying for “a man’s job”!–along with other, more practical forms of discrimination.

    By the way, while it’s easy to see the fashion, demeanour, and speech faux pas of people poorer or less well brought up than you, it’s not easy to look the other way and see how others are judging you. We all send those signals constantly and unconsciously. So be warned when you get out the “they asked for it” stick.

    Speaking of slippery slopes… if it’s OK to descriminate against people with tattoos on religious grounds, is it OK to kill people who do things you think is a sin? Such as performing or having abortions? How about eating beef? It happens. The U.S. is not the centre of the world, and in some places that’s the worst thing you can do. Religious discrmiminators shoudl should think about the second before they condone the first.

  174. #174 Monado
    March 4, 2007

    Other points:
    In the U.S., doctors have been sued for malpractice when they stopped to aid accident victims. I don’t think it’s required for them to stop. In Canada, at least the last I heard, which was several years ago, no one had been sued. I can’t speak for other countries. It’s considered to be a Good Thing to stop and help and thus rather churlish to penalize people who do so. I don’t think it’s required in the U.S. and I don’t know about Canada, even though that’s where I live.

    I don’t think that universal health care is legally be a Right here, but it is acknowledged to be better for everyone not to have people dying or bankrupted by unexpected illness, and thus it is government policy to provide health insurance.

  175. #175 tuityfruity
    June 22, 2007

    I would like to comment on evolving squids comment. A business DOES NOT have the right to reduce their customer base using discriminatory actions, which is what I feel this is. If he would have turned away a person for being black, his ass would have been barred by now. This is happening all of the time, and it’s getting out of hand. Too many people cannot afford to go to multiple places, or aren’t even capable of going anywhere but a specific place. Doctors SHOULD NOT be allowed to refuse services we as individuals have a legal right to have. If they did not want to perform these services, they should have went into a different field. This is straight up discrimination, pure and simple. So many people want to use the argument that a person can just go to a different doctor. That MAY be true, but why should they have to? I’m sure that’s EXACTLY what the racist white people used to say about black people being rejected from public places, that they could just go somewhere else. So, what does that say about the people who think that these individuals could “just go to another doctor”? I guess you must have thought that the black people could “just go to another restaurant” as well, right.

  176. #176 Ms. Ashley
    July 18, 2007

    Galations 6:9-10

    “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for we will reap our harvest at the right time. We will not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of ALL, and especially for those of the family of faith.”

    key word … “ALL”

  177. #177 richard perrin
    October 22, 2007

    you missing the underlying point.people that have tatoos are scum, and should be avoided at all costs…..

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