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Okay … Let’s just think critically for a moment!

March 5, 2009

A woman, from Tennessee,  is in a car accident and rushed to the hospital in a small town in Indiana.  She is alone, and no family has been contacted … and she is unconscious.   The emergency room staff of the small but capable hospital are doing their best to save her life, but her injuries are quite extensive and she has lost a lot of blood.  It’s a more abnormal case than they usually see, and this particular day, they are short-staffed.

She needs a blood transfusion.  A new nurse, named Amy, is charged with taking the necessary steps to prepare this patient for the transfusion.  After receiving the directive from the doctor, she is faced with a conflict in her conscience, relative to her beliefs.  She’s Jehovah’s Witness, and her beliefs do not support blood transfusions for herself.   She’s only been a nurse for a short time and this is the first time she has had to choose between her own beliefs system and obeying orders, and the patient’s care.

What should she do?

If she refuses to follow the doctor’s orders, she could be fired, or at least “written up” for insubordination.  If she does what he asked her to do, she is going against her faith.

What should she do?

Bill worked at the local pharmacy. He’s been a pharmacy tech for about 6 years as he is working his way through school.  While Bill certainly knows the healing elements of medicines, he has developed some misgivings of late, that some people use drugs “not to heal” but to satisfy their own personal needs.  For example, a lady has been coming to the pharmacy for years, filling a prescription for fertility drugs.  Her name is Summer, and she and her husband desperately want to have children.

Bill and Summer went to church together for many years as students. He knows that it has always been her dream in life to be a mom and have a house-full of children.  It bothers him every time he has to fill her prescription because he thinks she should “trust God” with this circumstance in her life.  He even said as he handed her the fertility pills, “God will give you children in His time, Summer.  You need to wait on God instead of trying to play God with your circumstances.”

Summer left the pharmacy crying that day.  She felt that Bill had no right to address her personal medical needs and decided to report him to the pharmacist.  Bill was reprimanded and advised that it was not his place to push his personal beliefs on customers.  He was warned that if it happened again, he’d be fired.

Bill told his boss and other co-workers that he was being persecuted because of his religious beliefs.

Do you think that Bill is being persecuted?

Do you think his boss was right or wrong to reprimand him?

Cora had gone back to school after her children were in high school. She had almost fulfilled her life-long dream of becoming a counselor.  In her final semester of school, she needed an internship to complete her degree.  After applying to about ten different schools, clinics and hospitals, she was elated when her advisor announced that she had been offered a “paid” internship with an inner-city clinic for women.  Her advisor explained that this would be a phenomenal position for her as it would provide great work experience and credentials for her resume.

When Cora found out that not only did the clinic provide routine physicals for poor women, it also provided abortion services, she was conflicted about accepting the internship.

She talked to her advisor about the inner conflict, and he explained that this was a decision only she could make.  “If you accept the internship … the job … with the clinic, you can’t let your personal beliefs affect your responsibilities with this job.  Ultimately, the decisions of the clients at the clinic are their responsibility too.”

That seemed like wise counsel to Cora.  She really wanted the job experience. She really wanted to graduate with some good credentials.  It was only a three month assignment … “perhaps that issue will never be assigned to me.” she convinced herself.

About four weeks after accepting the internship, Cora was feeling good about the work she was doing and about her decision to accept the internship.  She had been able to apply so much of what she had learned over the past few years and saw fruit from her labor.  She had helped several women who were in abusive relationships, a few who needed help with depression and anger management problems.  She had even been able to work with two teenage sisters who “hated” each other … and they were learning to communicate and get along.

Then one Saturday morning, the dreaded issue came up.  A woman who was about 26-years old came into the clinic to get an abortion, and Cora was the only counsel working that day.

Before the procedure could be performed, clients/patients had to talk with a counselor to make sure they understood the procedure and had made a rational decision.  Cora was a nervous wreck when she called the woman back to the counseling area.

She read through the required material and script that was provided by the clinic.  The woman sat stone-faced and cold as she seemingly listened to Cora read.

“This woman doesn’t want to have an abortion.” Cora thought to herself.

“Do you understand the decision you are making?” Cora asked her.

The woman nodded.

“I need you to verbally say, yes, M’am.”  she insisted.

“Yes.” the woman mumbled.

“Do you know WHY you are doing this?” Cora asked her.

“What?  Please don’t judge me.” the woman said.  “You don’t know me. Please don’t judge me.”

“I’m not judging you.  I just want to make sure you are doing the right thing.” Cora said.

“I’m doing what I have to do. I’ve made my decision. Now let’s get it over with.” she stated.

Cora continued to fill out the required paperwork, but her conscience would not let her finish without saying once more, “Have you considered other alternatives?”

The woman suddenly lifted her eyes from the stare at the floor and tears began to flow down her cheeks.  “Of course, I’ve considered the alternatives. I’ve even considered just killing myself and I would except I already have three children to care for and I’ve lost my job and I have no husband.  So please … save me your sermon, I know what I’m doing. I can’t justify it, but it’s the only choice I have.”

“I’m not asking you to justify it.” Cora said.

“Yes you are. And I can’t so let’s move on. I’m an adult. This is a legal procedure and I do not need any more counseling.” the woman declared.

Cora felt mortified. She had not meant to overstep her boundaries as a counselor and did not think that she had. But now this woman was irrational and definitely needed to work through this before having the abortion.”

“My job is to make sure you are making a healthy choice, M’am. That’s all. I’m not trying to influence you one way or the other.”  Cora insisted.

“What’s healthy for me, might not be healthy for you. Please, just help me get on with this.”  she said as she covered her eyes with her hands.

Cora looked down at the paperwork that she had to sign in order for the client to move on through the process.  Her heart was breaking, but she knew that her signature was really just a formality that counseling had been offered.  Cora felt the woman was making a terrible mistake, but it was not her job to make such recommendations.  She decided to go talk to the doctor before signing off on the form.

She explained to the doc how the woman had been reacting, and that she felt she was not ready to make this choice.

“I’ll talk to her, Cora. Just sign the papers that you offered her counseling and we’ll move on.”  the doctor said.

“I can’t sign it.” Cora said.  “I cannot allow my name to be associated with this if she goes through with the abortion.”

“Cora, it’s her decision. Not yours. I will talk to her. Don’t take this personally. You did your job … the job that you accepted four weeks ago.  You followed the procedures now it’s out of your hands.”  the doctor stated again.

Tears welled up in Cora’s eyes.

“I don’t want to sign it. I won’t sign it.” she said.

“Fine then.” he said as he took the paper from her hand.  “Cora, it’s almost closing time. Go home and we’ll talk about this next week.”

The doctor and his nurse went to the counseling room to speak with the woman.  Cora turned and almost ran to the bathroom.  She knew that this could be a negative mark on her record.  She might not get a good recommendation from the doctor.  She wanted to do the right thing … but the right thing to do didn’t seem so clear at this very moment.

She gathered her things and went home, not knowing if she would return to work at the clinic or not.  She had to have the credit to graduate.  If she finished the internship, she would graduate in less than two months.  But what if this issue came up again.  She doubted that the doctor or the administrator would be as understanding next time.

What should Cora do?

Should she have accepted the internship in the first place, since she already knew that her beliefs did not support abortion, even though it is a legal procedure?

Since she is paid to follow the procedures of the clinic and refused, should she be reprimanded or have a negative mark on her record?

Does her beliefs have anything to do with the job she is paid to perform?

Would you say the same about the Pharmacy Tech Bill, or the Nurse Amy?

Do their beliefs entitle them to make or influence decisions or practices that affect clients, consumers or patients?

Would you want them to be making decisions about your health and welfare?

Or would you want that decision to be made by you?

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