Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Catholic physicians who want to follow their conscience must ‘emigrate,’ UK expert says

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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LONDON, May 30, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Physicians who have strong moral objections to prescribing abortifacient drugs, including the morning after pill, should leave England, a meeting of the Catholic Medical Association was told.

This is not due to “discrimination” against conscientious Catholic physicians, but rather is a “total conflict of culture,” in the new post-sexual revolution social order, one that substantially rejects the Christian outlook on sex.

On May 17, the CMA’s annual conference heard Charlie O’Donnell, a consultant in emergency and intensive care medicine, say that “orthodox” Catholics training in obstetrics and gynecology would have such huge obstacles they would have little choice but to “emigrate.” Physicians are routinely faced with requests for artificial contraceptives, artificial procreation treatments or Viagra for “gay couples,” and there is simply no room left in the profession for the Christian worldview in medicine in Britain.

The Tablet quotes Dr. O’Donnell saying, “To be a sound Catholic regarding sexual ethics it is not possible to train as a consultant obstetrician and gynecologist.”

Dr. Thomas Ward, a retired Catholic GP told LifeSiteNews today, “That’s true. It’s absolutely the case.”

Although he agrees with Dr. O’Donnell, he asked, “After they’ve packed their bags, where are they supposed to go?” Every country in Europe, indeed, he said, across the entire Western world, holds the same mentality.

Even decades ago, Dr. Ward said, it was already “astonishingly difficult” to be a doctor who refuses to dispense abortifacient contraceptives. “If you survive,” he said, “you do so based on the tolerance of your colleagues. I really don’t think that you have any chance without that.”

This year’s CMA conference addressed the question of conscience in the context of the physician’s work. The conference brochure asked, “What is conscience? What does the Church say? What does the law state? How can we work in workplaces which are hostile to individuals’ consciences? What can a Catholic conscience bring to the places and services in which we work? Learn more about the Glasgow midwives who refused to engage with abortions in their unit.”

Among the speakers was Paul Tully, the general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) who agreed that Dr. O’Donnell was essentially correct.

“In particular in the area of gynecology and obstetrics,” Tully said, “although there are some jobs where you can pretty much avoid conflict, to train in the field now is virtually impossible. There are so many practices which are unacceptable, and those practices form such a large proportion of practice.”

Dr. O’Donnell, Tully said, “was being just very blunt and pragmatic about it. It’s gone beyond the point where conscientious objection is a practicable alternative for someone specializing in those field.”

Dr. Ward, a Catholic and long-time pro-life and family advocate, told LifeSiteNews of his own difficulties, decades ago, in practicing medicine while refusing to participate in the contraceptive culture that was already prevalent in medicine. He said that as a young man, he considered moves to the EU Parliament and Ireland, but found the same situation everywhere.

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“I can hardly see how anybody can survive, it’s so problematical for people of conscience,” he said. “Forty years ago, I was turned down at practice after practice because of my ethical views. It was impossible. Now it’s much more impossible, if I can say that.”

The issue is not that there is no legal opt-out for abortion, Dr. Ward explained. “The law says you have a right to conscientious objection, but you must pass the referral on to someone else. That’s moral nonsense. It’s as if you’re saying, 'I can’t burgle that bank, but my neighbor will burgle the bank.' Nonsense.”

“Abortion is not the issue,” he added. “That’s morally equivalent to running old ladies down in the street. That’s not a moral dilemma.” The real matter is the total engulfing of the medical profession in the “culture of death,” he said. “Abortion is a consequence of that – a symptom, as it were.”

He said that although it is imperative to oppose abortion, that is the final outcome, not the cause of the “anti-life culture” in medicine. “Being mesmerized by surgical abortion is a fallacy.”

Referring to the Catholic Church’s exposition of the issue in Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, Dr. Ward said the problem boils down to the rejection of the very fundamental purpose of the sexual act.

“You can never separate the unitive nature of sex from the procreative,” he said. The attempt to do so, has resulted in a “dominant culture” that radically rejects marital fidelity, accepts abortion, artificial contraception, artificial reproduction, homosexual acts, and widespread promiscuity. “It all comes down to the same source,” he added, “all these consequences.”

Paul Tully added that at least a third to half of the practices now considered a normal part of obstetric medicine would be impossible for a conscientious Catholic.

“Dr. O’Donnell was explaining the situation as he understands it in the health service – and although it is possible, though it may be difficult, for already established doctors to continue practicing in obstetrics and gynecology in line with Catholic pro-life principles, it is not feasible to undertake training in the field because so many cases involve some major objectionable practice – non-therapeutic sterilization, IVF, gender reassignment and so on.”

“It has gone beyond simply discriminating against individuals. The culture of death has ingrained itself so deeply in the National Health Service that everyday work in obstetrics and gynecology entails numerous instances of promoting evil. Dr. O’Donnell's view is that it simply isn't practicable for Catholics to train in that field. The answer may lie, as Dr. O’Donnell suggested, in young trainee doctors going abroad to gain experience and expertise in obstetrics and gynecology elsewhere,” Tully added.

But he echoed Dr. Ward, saying, “The anti-life onslaught is international, and with the UK and its EU partners intensively seeking to destroy pro-life culture in every corner of the world there are few places left where this might be possible.”

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