In recent news, a lesbian couple was rejected from medical care for their newborn daughter by a pediatrician recommended to them by their midwife. The doctor who declined this couple, Dr. Roi, said that she “prayed on it and won’t care for Bay (the newborn baby)”. Roi also failed to come into the office the day of the couple’s appointment, perhaps to avoid any confrontation. The couple was shocked and through the use of popular culture and the media, attention accumulated on this issue.
According to Bill 4309 in the state of Michigan (where the couple resides), it is legal for physicians to decline medical care based on their personal, religious, and moral beliefs. Although I agree with doctors keeping this right, I strongly support implementing ways to educate physicians on how to refuse patients in an appropriate manner, not in a shameful way. It was expressed in an interview after the story was released that the couple felt embarrassed and humiliated, as they were simply parents trying to protect their child. Many gay and lesbian couples face troubles in regards to people disapproving of their relationship, however this dissatisfaction has been spread to their innocent child. A baby does not know anything about discrimination, however, she is exposed to it six days after birth and this is something that will continue throughout her lifetime based solely on the sexuality her parents. Homophobia, or fear of homosexuality, is abundant through all fields of society (Aulette and Wittner 113). In addition, there are no laws in Michigan to protect LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer) couples in medical dilemmas such as this.
After attention was brought to this situation, Dr. Roi responded to the couple with a letter. In this letter she wrote, “I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient-doctor relationships that I normally do with my patients.” This letter is completely inappropriate and an unhelpful apology. The couple’s baby has not self identified her sexuality and because she is the patient, it should not matter. Therefore, in this case an intersectional analysis can be provided to understand the correlation between religious beliefs and homophobia.
This family goes against the standard story which always involves a female body that is attracted to men or a man attracted to a woman with no exceptions (Aulette and Wittner 20). Although they differ from what many in society view as “normal”, they should be allowed to have a doctor who will respect them and their life choices. They are legally married with a baby who has not declared her sexuality. It is often a controversial topic to discuss the overlap between religion and opinions about homosexuality. Those with religious beliefs have every right to express them however, there are ways to do so that are less homophobic. The intersectionality displayed here is the crossroads between religion and sexuality. The formation of beliefs towards differing sexualities grows increasingly complicated when religious or moral beliefs are tied into the decision-making. In terms of medical associations, it is important to treat all patients equally, regardless of their life decisions and views. Therefore, unless a doctor truly feels as if they cannot provide adequate care for such a patient, they should attempt to care for them to the best of their ability in order for LGBTQ couples to attain equal rights.
Dr. Roi has exemplified binary thinking because she has chosen to reject her patient. She sees the situation with two options: either she accepts the daughter of the lesbian couple as her patient or she declines the family. Although she has full legal rights to reject the patient, there is a difference between doing so in a proper manner and doing so in a harmful, damaging way. For instance, the doctor could have denied the patient before an appointment was set up so the couple did not obtain any feelings of excitement towards Dr. Roi for their daughter. Additionally, Dr. Roi could have recommended another pediatrician from the very beginning to avoid maltreatment. Therefore, because doctors will continue to support their religious beliefs, educational programs should be implemented in private practices and hospitals in order to teach physicians kind ways to reject a patient while stilling maintaining their ability to practice their legal rights. This way both parties will receive justification for their actions: doctors can express their beliefs and LGBTQ couples can seek other, more suitable medical help.
In the end, the couple realized that they did not want a doctor treating their daughter who thinks less of the patient anyways. This is a heart wrenching story because many gay couples experience homophobia throughout their lives and six short days after their daughter is born, she too is experiencing harassment. Something needs to be done to prevent this issue from continuously occurring. A beneficial place to start is proper education for physicians because it avoids changing the doctor’s beliefs while keeping all parties involved content.
Aulette, Judy Root and Judith Wittner. Gendered Worlds Third Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Print.
Gamrat, Cindy. “House Bill 4309.” Michigan Legislature. 5 March 2015. Web. 8 March
Staff, myFOXDeteroit.com. “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-Sex Couple’s Baby.” MyFOX Detroit. 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 5 March 2015.