Medical society president explains silence on abortion

Teresa Wright
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Dr. Rachel Kassner, president of the Medical Society of P.E.I.

The president of the P.E.I. Medical Society says her organization has refused to comment directly on the lack of abortion services in P.E.I. due to the divided opinion of P.E.I. doctors on the issue.

On Monday, P.E.I. Medical Society President Dr. Rachel Kassner submitted a letter to The Guardian for its editorial page explaining why the society has not provided a spokesperson to comment on the provision of abortion services on P.E.I.

Up until now, the Medical Society has refused comment on the controversial topic of P.E.I.’s abortion policies, despite its recent prevalence in both local and national media.

In her letter, Kassner says this is due to the polarization among the public and among doctors when questions about abortion are raised.

“Even though the current debate is suppose to be specific to access to abortion services in P.E.I., predictably and perhaps understandably, the mere mention of the ‘A’ word polarizes groups, and yes, that includes doctors,” Kasser says in her letter.

“It must be stated that to achieve consensus on the issue of abortion within any group is impossible and invariably divisive.”

That why, rather than providing a local spokesperson to speak about the lack of this medical service on P.E.I., the Medical Society has been directing media to the Canadian Medical Association’s official policy on abortion.

“MSPEI endorses this policy, which acknowledges that although abortion is a legal medical procedure, no physician is obliged to recommend or perform the procedure,” Kassner wrote.

“However, personal beliefs must not affect the health and safety of a woman seeking an abortion by delaying access to the procedure,” she added.

The Canadian Medical Association’s abortion policy states physicians with moral or religious beliefs preventing them from recommending an abortion should inform the patient of this so she can find another doctor.

Dr. Richard Wedge, executive director of medical affairs at Health P.E.I. told The Guardian last week doctors on P.E.I. can refuse to provide abortion referrals. But if they do refuse, they are medically obliged to refer the woman to another physician who will make the referral.

Officials at the society sent the request for information from Health P.E.I. after several P.E.I. women stated in the media recently their doctors refused to give them referrals or did not provide adequate information about abortion services available in the region.

MSPEI will be circulating the information it received from Health P.E.I. to all practising physicians on referral and access to abortion services.

Organizations: The Guardian, Medical Society, P.E.I. Medical Society President Canadian Medical Association Health P.E.I.

Geographic location: P.E.I.

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Recent comments

  • Dr. PG. Ney
    November 30, 2011 - 14:18

    No physician is under any legal or medical obligation to perform or refer for any medical act that is not well established as necessary and beneficial for the patient. It is necessary for those who perform or support or refer for all procedures to show beyond reasonable doubt with evidence based medicine that abortions are required and good treatment for women. No such evidence exists. In fact those who most loudly lament the lack of facilities are doing nothing to show the benefits to women. The best evidence shows only harms. Abortion does not prevent any mental illness but aggravates them all. Since there is no justification for 99.5% of all abortions, invading a woman's body with a curete is tantamount to criminal assault.

    • Head Shaker
      November 30, 2011 - 15:34

      Then there are some readers here who seem to think you should hand back your MD and go live in a monastary. The opinion seems to be if a woman asks, you must perform or quit.

    • Dr. Amac
      December 02, 2011 - 15:37

      Where in the world did you come up with 99.5% of all abortions are not justified? Abortion is legal and if performed properly, completely safe, just as any other medical procedure. Saying that doctors shouldn't be obligated to perform abortions upon request, no matter the reasons behind the request, is like saying that doctor's aren't obligated to prescribe a form of birth control upon request just because it's against their personal beliefs. If a women requests an abortion or a prescription for the birth control pill, a medical doctor SHOULD NOT make any judgments or decisions based on their own beliefs. Doctors who are paid by the Government, should most definitely not have a choice, except whether to work for the Government or not. Abortion is LEGAL, made law by the Government. Deal with it, or work elsewhere. Every person in this world should have rights to their own body.

    • To Dr AMAC
      December 04, 2011 - 14:38

      If it is legal, made so by the government, pleas cite the statute. V oodoo is not illegal. Should doctors be forced to perform voodoo if the patient asks for it?

    • Dr. Amac
      December 05, 2011 - 21:30

      "Please cite the statute" ... are you kidding me? You don't know that abortion is a legally performed medical procedure in the Country of CANADA. January 28, 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Section 7 of the Charter and Rights and Freedoms was being violated by upholding the Abortion Law and struck it down. As for your voodoo comment, if it made any sense or had relevance to this debate, I would entertain an answer. But first, catch up on your history homework and come back to the table with an intelligent comment...or not!

    • Heat SHaker
      December 13, 2011 - 06:40

      Why should doctors not be obligated to perform voodoo if requested by the patient. The whole debate here is that since it is not illegal, doctors should not be allowed to let their own beliefs or ethics interfere with the wishes of the patient or is abortion so special that it has it's own rules that son't apply to anything else in the medical field?

    • Grow up
      December 14, 2011 - 06:48

      I wasn't attacking everyone who had debt, but I can see who the whiners are here. I was commenting to Joe Blow about his assertion that most people are in debt because are becomng poor despite how hard they work becuse there is a conspiracy to keep them there. I am simply saying that it is possible to live without being in debt. I'm sorry that someone not having crushing debt loads, and not working for minimum wage is so offensive to you. I was poor and working for just above minimum wage. I got out of it specifically by by finding something I was good at and applying myself, or I'd still be poor. The victim mentality that everyone is a victim or an abuser is very strong with this crowd, it seems. If some people fell off a ship, and were offered a rope, they'd bitch that someone was offending them by suggesting they couldn't swim.

  • something
    November 29, 2011 - 18:49

    This is a serious problem here in the USA where the political landscape is so dominated by religious nutcases that it's impossible even to have a conversation, let alone cite evidence. But I'd always been under the impression that Canadians were rather more sensible. Are things degenerating up north, too? Why? What can you learn from the collapse of reason in the USA? You'd better learn it quick!

    • Well
      November 30, 2011 - 06:29

      The first thing I hope people learn is it isn't true, what some people are saying, that no place else is there an issue. Then, there is not a constitutional right in Canada. Then, merely disagreeing with someone does not automatically make one a nutcase.

    • Head Shaker
      November 30, 2011 - 07:40

      What? Not just PEI. Someone's got some 'splainin to do. I am not rabidly anti-abortion, but I hate people trying to convince me (especially the ones who are adamant that there is no way they could possibly be wrong) with really stupid arguments which they think are knock down blows or turn out to be just plain made up. It seems that PEI is the only place where this is even an issue doens't seem to be entirely accurate.

  • Twiggy Rathbone
    November 29, 2011 - 16:12

    I don't think (at least I hope not) that medical schools teach young doctors that it is perfectly acceptable to deny medical treatment to a particular patient if doing so goes against a doctor's religious beliefs or morals. That is similar to telling a police officer it is OK for him to not protect pro-choice protesters or abortion clinics if it goes against his anti-abortion beliefs. Morals and ethics are fine, but when a woman needs a medical procedure the doctor has a duty to perform it despite his beliefs. As long as the doctor is not breaking any laws he is obligated to perform all medical procedures. If a doctor facing this dilemma cannot see that, maybe he or she should stop practicing medicine.

    • Head Shaker
      November 29, 2011 - 16:59

      Would you perform acts that you, personally, considered morally wrong simply because there wasn't a law against it? 200 years ago would you buy slaves simply because it wasn't illegal? How does this not violate the charter rights of the doctor. In the Ontario model, a doctor has to refer to someone who will perform, but is not legally obligated to do it themselves. Are you trying to reduce the number of doctors we have for everything else, over this one issue? If I was a doctor and had a chance to work elsewhere, I'd be gone the day after hat was announced. ( I know here is a lot here, but I very much think that your position is going to royally screw us if anyone takes it seriously)

    • Seriously
      November 29, 2011 - 18:44

      Seriously, you think it is hard to recruit doctors now and you want to add that restriction when other jurisdictions like Ontario do not? Are you trying to screw things up for every other islander? What could possibly make you think that is a good idea? There are some of us who don't want to go to NB for a checkup.

  • Head Shaker
    November 29, 2011 - 15:38

    Ya think? ;-)

  • gale routh
    November 29, 2011 - 14:20

    this is the law: ABORTION IS A CIVIL AND CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT SUPPORTED BY THE RIGHTS TO PRIVACY, THE EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE OF 14TH AMENDMENT, AND THE 13TH AMENDMENT. no human has a right to life or any due process rights by the 14th amendment to use another human's body or body parts AGAINST their will, civil and constitutional rights: that's why you are not force to donate your kidney---the human fetus is no exception; this is protected by the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. consensual sex =/= a legal, binding contract for an unwanted fetus to live. ALL THE REPUBLICANS ARE PRO-LIFE, SCHIZOPHRENIC FASCISTS WHO SUPPORTS REPRODUCTIVE SLAVERY OF AMERICAN FEMALE CITIZENS, WHICH IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL BY THE 13TH AMENDMENT.

    • Head Shaker
      November 29, 2011 - 15:41

      You do realize that we are in no way bound by the American constitution because WE ARE NOT AMERICAN!

    • Jim Cantrell
      November 29, 2011 - 15:52

      Gale Routh, you DO know this is Canada and not the U.S.?If you are posting from Canada you are an idiot and if you are posting from the United States you are also an idiot.

    • Trent C
      November 29, 2011 - 15:58

      What we have here is someone posting to random articles but not checking to see what country they are in, or someone who thinks the US constitution is a universal document. Down with manifest destiny!

  • eyes raised
    November 29, 2011 - 14:17

    Doctors are entitled to their opinion..but should NEVER impose their religous beliefs right or wrong in the way of their treatment or any professional services.....if they PUT these religous values ahead of the rights of their patients...they should be taken to task.....remember they are not GOD......although some think they are

    • Head Shaker
      November 29, 2011 - 15:45

      Even so, but doctors should not be forced to actively do something that they don't consider moral or ethical. You may find it harder to find doctors after you start doing that. Don't screw over the rest of us on everything else.

    • Ya know
      November 29, 2011 - 15:51

      Maybe they are not taking it to court because the actual decision was that you could not have a board of doctors make the decision on whether a woman is allowed to have an abortion. It did not rule that abortions are constitutional rights. It makes great rhetoric, but if you took it to court, and you lost, you have lost all your standing to push the government into providing the service. I say go for it and let's see that a judge decides.

  • First do no harm
    November 29, 2011 - 13:19

    "I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from the time of conception, even under threat, I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity..." The Physician's Oath

  • Too many Mr Magoos
    November 29, 2011 - 12:42

    The medical doctors, despite their education, don't seem any more able to focus on the issue at hand than some segments of the general public. The issue is not about the rightness or wrongness of abortion. The Supreme Court of Canada decided that matter many years ago. The issue is about a woman's right to accessibility for a legally-sanctioned medical procedure. PEI is an embarrassment to the country in making women leave the island like pariahs to have this service performed. There used to be a cartoon character called Mr MaGoo who had trouble seeing things properly. The doctors on PEI remind me of him. I don't know why these women don't take their case to court. I am convinced they would win and the province made to make the service available.

  • Head Shaker
    November 29, 2011 - 11:42

    “It must be stated that to achieve consensus on the issue of abortion within any group is impossible and invariably divisive.” How can this possibly be true? I think this must be absolutely wrong. I've been hearing that there is no place in the world where this is an issue except with overly fundemantalist christian islanders. Someone must be wrong. It must be the doctors. Pro-choice special interest groups are obviously unbiased and would never misrepresent things. So, Dr Kassner, perhaps you should defer to one of these groups to represent the medical of the situation because doctors oviously are not aware of how the medical profession sees the issue. Perhaps to should call the PEI Reproductive Rights Organization to what doctors really think as you don't seem to have a handle on this.

    • Jeepers
      November 29, 2011 - 12:48

      Head Shaker...I assume your comment is sarcasm?