Personal convictions


Under review

Clinical case  
A patient comes to your clinic. Upon reading her medical record you realize that she has AIDS. Can you refuse to treat her? 

In Québec, section 10 of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms forbids any discrimination based on race, color, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age (except to the extent provided by law),  religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, handicap or the use of a means to palliate it.

For physicians, section 23 of the Code of Ethics stipulates the following:

23. A physician may not refuse to examine or treat a patient solely for reasons related to the nature of a deficiency or illness, or to the context in which the patient’s deficiency or illness appeared, or because of the race, colour, sex, pregnancy, civil status, age, religion, ethnic or national origin, or social condition of the patient, or for reasons of sexual orientation, morality, political convictions, or language.

In other words, physicians may not refuse to treat a patient because she is infected by the AIDS virus.

In a more general sense, physicians are  bound to provide only the care that is medically necessary, as specified in section 50 of the Code of Ethics:

“A physician must only provide or issue a prescription when these are medically necessary.”

However, physicians may refuse to provide a patient with the medically required care for reasons of lack of competence, conflict of personality with the patient, lack of
cooperation on the part of the patient, or a request for care that is foolhardy or not in keeping with medical science.

Physicians may never shy away from their obligation to provide assistance, particularly to a person in a state of emergency requiring immediate attention, regardless of the
circumstances. This is an obligation for any citizen, all the more so when that citizen is a physician.