Calgary doctor refuses to prescribe birth control due to personal beliefs
Marlene Leung, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, June 28, 2014 11:23AM EDT
A Calgary doctor who will not prescribe birth control because she says it goes against her personal beliefs has triggered outrage among patients.
Dr. Chantal Barry will not prescribe birth control pills due to her religious beliefs. When Barry is working as the lone walk-in physician at the Westglen Medical Centre in southwest Calgary, a sign is put up telling patients that they will not be able to get a prescription for contraception that day.
When Joan Chand'oiseau saw the sign, she was shocked and outraged by the policy, which she says is judgemental.
"It contains overt judgement of my choices and my reproductive health," she told CTV Calgary. "I think that affects everyone in that clinic, regardless of whether or not they're visiting that doctor."
Chand'oiseau said that the sign, which reads "Please be informed that the physician on duty today will not prescribe the birth control pill," also offended her. She took a photo of it for proof and posted it to her Facebook page.
"Even being at check-in, having that sign present -- bolded in yellow highlighter so it is not to be missed -- is judging every single person in that clinic.
"Dr. Barry's religion has no place in my health or my reproductive health, period."
While the photo and policy are just now getting media attention, other patients at the clinic have known about Barry's policy for some time.
Carmen Dumba said she also feels that the policy is inappropriate.
"I have a disease called endometriosis. I've been on birth control since I was in my mid-teens simply to treat that," she said.
The Westglen Medical Centre declined a request for comment.
According to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, doctors must communicate clearly and promptly to patients if there is a service that he or she will not provide. And when moral or religious beliefs prevent access to care, the doctor must refer that patient to another physician or resources where they can receive the requested service.
Other doctors at Westglen will prescribe birth control, and the sign is only put up when Barry is the walk-in doctor on shift. When patients are declined a prescription for contraception by Barry, they are provided with a list of other Calgary clinics where they can get birth control.
But many in the city are still critical of the policy.
Pam Krause, CEO of the Calgary Sexual Health Centre, said this is the first time she's heard of a doctor in Alberta refusing to prescribe contraception based on religious grounds.
"Absolutely, we all have values. But I think it's a responsibility when it's an expected service by patients," she said, adding that birth control is one of the most requested prescriptions.
"It's not an unusual service. I would suspect that it's one of the most common things requested at walk-in clinics."
Jim Prentice, the frontrunner in the Alberta PC leadership race, said the policy is inappropriate for a doctor working in the public health-care system.
"I don't think that's appropriate and I don't think it's consistent with the obligations that a doctor has in the public healthcare system," he said. "So there needs to be an investigation into why that's happening and we need to deal with it."
With a report by CTV Calgary's Elissa Carpenter