Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Got a conscience? What for?


We've all got a conscience. We know when something is right or wrong, or when we may be stepping over the line. My conscience told me to stop at four chicken schnitzels at dinner tonight even though I was eyeing off a fifth (true story!). My conscience tells me it is not right to come home from work and lie on the couch while my wife is cooking dinner and the baby is crying. My conscience tells me I have an obligation to care for my newborn son at all times, etc etc.
We all have a sense of natural justice too. To pronounce someone as guilty before proven otherwise is widely held as unjust. It would have been unjust for me to eat that fifth schnitzel if my wife was hungry and wanted it. I wish she wasn't hungry!

For Sunshine Doctor Mark Hobart, his conscience told him not to refer a couple to an abortion clinic. Why? Because  the couple asked him to abort their healthy baby girl at 19 weeks simply because they wanted a boy.

Various human rights agreements, which Australia engages in, state that individuals have a right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. With this in mind, and as a practicing Catholic, Doctor Hobart was merely exercising his freedom of religion and conscience. No big deal right? Wrong.

Doctor Hobart is now subject to an inquiry by the Medical Board of Victoria after complaints about his conduct as a health practitioner were raised by members of the Board itself, after they undertook a secret "Own Motion". According to the Herald Sun, Doctor Hobart repeatedly asked for details of those who complained about his conduct, as well as information about how he conducted himself in a manner not befitting a health practitioner. These requests were rebuffed by the Board and its parent body, the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency even though Section 161 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (ACT) ("National Law") states that health practitioners are to be given notice of any action against them as soon as practical after the decision is made to investigate them.

Doctor Hobart is now facing the prospect of being stripped of his licence and therefore will no longer be able to practice his profession. Effectively, he will be stripped of his livelihood and the Sunshine community will be stripped of a doctor who faithfully serves their needs.

However, Doctor Hobart is apparently meant to fight to keep his licence with no insight as to what he's actually up against and who is behind the action against him. No patient has complained of his conduct nor has any woman been injured by Dr Hobart’s medical care. 
 As a father and a husband, I can only imagine what Doctor Hobart is going through. Can you imagine the prospect of losing your livelihood whilst trying to put bread on the table for your wife and kids under circumstances like his?

Oh, and one guess as to who is judging the inquiry the Medical Board have brought against Doctor Hobart. Yes, the Medical Board themselves!

With this background on the table, and putting aside the well versed pro-life vs pro-choice arguments, as well as the glaringly obvious gendercide issue, there are a couple of issues that are completely baffling (if you're not baffled by the facts I have provided already).

The first is the fact that the Medical Board of Victoria can pass an Own Motion at a secret meeting to begin an inquiry against a doctor and not provide any details to the accused.

To me, there is a natural justice issue the size of the MCG staring us all in the face. Doctor Hobart has effectively been charged by "faceless men and women who are to be both accusers and judges in their own case...", and given no information to defend himself. He is looking at being de-registered as a doctor and therefore either having to provide for his family without a job, or increasing the stress and burden to himself and his family by taking the issue to the Supreme Court. How do you defend yourself to a judge that is also the accuser with no information to defend yourself?

The second obvious issue relates to the concept of moral conscience. Section 8 of the Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 ("Section 8") crudely strips away the rights of doctors to decline any involvement in an abortion. They must either refer the person/couple to an abortion clinic, or, and I quote from Section 8, "inform the woman that the practitioner has a conscientious objection to abortion and refer the woman to another registered health practitioner in the same regulated health profession who the practitioner knows does not have a conscientious objection to abortion".

Put simply, if you are doctor and object on moral grounds to abortion, you must either do it yourself or load the gun for another doctor to do it. Either way, you are forced to partake in that abortion, against your moral conscience.

As stated above, there are various international treaties outlining that everyone has a right to exercise their moral conscience. For example, the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities both state that everyone has a right to freedom of thought, speech and conscience. Then we have Section 8! It is completely at odds with the both of these, and many other global treaties on freedom of conscience.

The absurd thing is, (and let's for a minute assume the Medical Board of Victoria didn't act in secrecy and did provide Doctor Hobart with the relevant details to defend himself) they are legally entitled to charge Doctor Hobart  under Section 8 for not referring the woman to an abortion clinic for gendercide reasons! Even though he acted on his moral conscience as per the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities!

The ridiculous nature of Section 8 doesn't end there. How do you prove Doctor Hobart did in fact know another doctor who would perform a gender based abortion?

So, in my view, these questions beckon:

1. In a society that screams discrimination seemingly at the drop of a hat, how can our politicians and legislators uphold a piece of law (specifically Section 8) that is completely at odds with international treaties and the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities? In short, are our politicians really going to sit back and allow this blatant discrimination against a fundamental human right to the detriment of people like Doctor Hobart and his family?

2. How can the Medical Board of Victoria withhold information to an accused doctor when section 161 of our National Law states quite clearly the accused is to be given notice of any investigation? Do our lawmakers no longer care about natural justice?

3. In a political environment that loves throwing the word "misogyny" around like it's going out of fashion, is it not unreasonable to argue that Section 8 forces doctors to display true misogyny by aborting, or taking part in aborting female babies? Where are all the feminists now? Who is looking after the female interests in a case like this? Was it not the feminist movement that played a large part in the implementation of the Abortion Law Reform Act? It is timely that this Friday is the International Day of the Girl Child.

I've read and heard many people take their frustrations out on the couple who asked for the gender based abortion. To me, this is folly. Do we really know what that couple are going through, or have gone through since the abortion took place? In fact, the couple were expecting their second child on the weekend and chose not to find out the sex of the baby.

Instead, we should be pointing the finger at our legislators and politicians for allowing ridiculous legislation to remain in place. We should be pointing the finger at our legislators and politicians for allowing natural justice to seemingly fly out the window.

When the Abortion Law Reform Act became law in 2008, many commentators predicted a doctor would be forced to fight for his livelihood under Section 8. As much as the legislators promised it wouldn't happen, it has taken a mere 5 years to take place. All this after the Victorian Parliament took a conscience vote to restrict freedom of conscience via Section 8!

In my opinion, this law should be repealed and natural justice and freedom of conscience restored.


All the best,
Dom Meese

3 comments:

  1. Interesting this morning on 3AW. Ross and John were baffled that in Victoria, you could legally abort a child based on gender. They put the question to listeners and each one said it was outrageous that this was possible. I'm hoping all this raises the debate to get a law change.

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  2. Let's hope that happens in Australia. it's a much different story in the UK.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/10360386/Law-does-not-prohibit-sex-selection-abortions-DPP-warns.html

    As much as gendercide is a disturbing problem, the real issue for me is Section 8. It forces doctors, who have a conscientious objection to abortion for any reason, to take part in one or face a situation like Doctor Hobart's.

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  3. This barbaric result comes from truly barbaric legislation but how can you be surprised when so many international covenants and Human Rights agreements are only based on political agendas, to be dismissed whenever it suits? The UN is peppered with crackpot lobby groups often funded by a liberal US government so I am very reluctant to expect any solace there or from similar international accords.

    We get the politicians we deserve and it seems the medicos get what they deserve. Other Doctors should rise up to protect Dr Hobart, to protect *their* freedom of conscience at least, and remove this Mengele type Medical Board. I hope we don't need another Thomas More but it looks like we do.

    Likewise voters should rise up to remove politicians who have lost their sense of history, of conscience, justice and duty. The Victorian legislation you refer to is unbelievable, even economically in light of overseas experience in China etc.

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