Arguments of doctor fallacious

I read with concern the Opinion piece by cardiologist Sandeep Jauhar (Can doctors refuse to treat a patient? May 15).

In Dr Jauhar's opinion, if treatments are sanctioned by medical bodies, doctors should have "limited leeway" to refuse, as patients' needs come first.

Those who foresee problems of conscience should steer clear of such fields in their career choices.

Specifically, Dr Jauhar makes references to controversial procedures such as abortion, and treatment to transgender individuals.

His arguments are fallacious on multiple grounds. First, it is disingenuous to uncritically equate procedures like abortions with medical needs.

Take abortion. While the decision to abort is surely not taken lightly, it is nevertheless largely a personal choice.

Pregnancy is not a disease. It is a physiological state that follows the act of sexual intercourse, the vast majority of which took place also by choice.

Pro-abortion activists identify their campaign as "pro-choice", recognising that it is about choice, not life-saving need. Instances where maternal lives are endangered in carrying pregnancies to term are very rare.

Dr Jauhar's proposal that doctors who anticipate these dilemmas should avoid training in related fields is also ill-considered.

It unfairly equates a few controversial practices with the whole of the related speciality practice. Abortion does not define the practice of obstetrics and gynaecology.

Many obstetrics and gynaecology doctors save or improve lives by treating gynaecological diseases or improving pregnancy outcomes for both mothers and babies.

To propose that those who disagree with specific procedures should opt out of the whole discipline is unreasonable.

It also wrongly assumes that "norms of the profession" and societal values are static.

In the landmark US Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade (1973), restrictions on abortion were initially trimester-based, then later modified to be viability-based.

While gestational age for foetal viability has dropped dramatically with medical advances, access to abortion has not correspondingly attenuated. Because societal values changed.

Doctors choosing speciality training today cannot fully anticipate what tomorrow brings in terms of ethical challenges.

Other contentious procedures such as euthanasia (with ever-widening accepted indications in some countries) potentially impact the practice of medicine at large.

Taken to its logical conclusion, Dr Jauhar's proposal means that anyone who potentially objects to terminating life should refrain totally from the practice of medicine.

What irony, when in fact the practice of medicine should be about saving lives.

Low Yee