Friday, February 20, 2015

Doctor refuses to treat baby of lesbian parents

We posted before on how some business owners have come under pressure to serve same sex clients in what they see as expressive and more personal services such as renting a wedding suite to a same sex couple, creating photographs or video for a same sex wedding or providing a cake celebrating the same. To the extent that some extremely religious or extremely bigoted people have balked at customers requesting such services they have usually lost their case in court IF their state happens to have laws forbidding such discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However not every state has such laws. Michigan for example does not. A local lesbian couple found that out the hard way when a pediatrician refused to see their child and referred the family to another doctor in her practice. Now medical coverage is just a wee bit more important than buying a cake or photographs from someone but the principle remains the same. I'm not sure there is a logically consistent method by which the state government could say we will allow market discrimination in that sector but not this one. Or is there? Is this an all or nothing sort of situation?

Last September when the expectant mothers first met Dr. Vesna Roi at Eastlake Pediatrics in Roseville. She was recommended by their midwife.

"We were really happy with her," Krista said. "The kind of care she offered, we liked her personality, she seemed pretty friendly. She seemed pretty straight up with us."
The Contrerasas were told to make an appointment with Roi once Bay arrived. The baby was born at home and when she was six days old - they went in.

But instead of seeing Dr. Roi, another doctor greeted them.
"The first thing Dr. Karam said was 'I'll be your doctor, I'll be seeing you today because Dr. Roi decided this morning that she prayed on it and she won't be able to care for Bay," Jami said. "Dr. Karam told us she didn't even come to the office that morning because she didn't want to see us."
The new mothers were shocked, hurt and angry. Bay's parents proceeded with the appointment with the other doctor then found another pediatric group for their baby.



The child did get medical attention. The practice and recalcitrant doctor are receiving a lot of bad publicity. That's probably not good for business. At the same time there are some businesses which are more expressive and personal where I am slightly more sympathetic to the idea that if someone really doesn't want to do something, for whatever reason, it might not be the best idea to force the market interaction. The pure libertarian will say that the market will work it all out and to stop worrying and coddling people. Well the history of Jim Crow shows that's just not the case. The market can just as easily codify discrimination as overturn it. Libertarians are wrong about the efficiency of the market. On the other hand I'm not 100% supportive of forcing a small privately owned devoutly Catholic greeting card company to handle all the invitations for a same sex wedding. But this is a child's health we're discussing. Is there a middle ground? Should Michigan pass a law to make the doctor's behavior illegal? Would you want to patronize a business where the owner made it clear that he or she didn't much like you? Because I wouldn't. If the law allows someone to decline to treat a child isn't that a bad law? Watch the two women talk about their experiences.




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