Religion vs health?

Tracey - posted on 01/05/2012 ( 28 moms have responded )

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I went to the pharmacy today to pick up my son's medication. They didn't have any, neither did any other local chemists and it could take 2 - 3 weeks before they get any more.

Why have they run out? Because the pharmaceutical company shut for Christmas. If we ignore the fact that the company failed to prepare - it's not like Christmas is a one off, it's the same time every year, then my son's well-being has been affected by a religious holiday, and before you ask no the doctor will not give me 2 months prescription in November to last until January.

Someone has put religious beliefs before people's health. Luckily my son's condition is not life threatening but many other drugs are also in limited supply.

Where health is at stake should there be a legal obligation to force doctors, hospitals, drug companies etc to provide the service necessary for patients' needs regardless of religion?

If Dr/Hospital A cannot or will not provide a service should they only be allowed to refuse if that service is available at Dr/Hospital B and the time delay in accessing that service will not affect a patient's health, if that service is not available elsewhere should they be forced to provide it?

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Jodi - posted on 01/06/2012

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"All I asked was a very simple question, if a health service (is procedure a less offensive word) is needed should the medical profession get its act together and either do the job themselves or arrange cover so that patients do not suffer."

No, you didn't just ask a simple question. You asked it in the context of a religious argument, and the fact is, this is nothing to do with religion. These people are not closed down because of religious reasons, but because of a cultural holiday. You were not refused medication for religious reasons.

So while I agree with the sentiment that a health worker should not refuse service based on religious beliefs (or should be able to provide you with an alternative should it go against their beliefs), this is NOT one of those situations. My problem with this is that you are attempting to make this a religious debate when it simply isn't.

I am really sorry that you are not able to get your son's medication, and this sounds to me like something you are obviously struggling with and should discuss with his doctor so as to prevent this happening again in the future, but it isn't a religious issue, and I don't think it should be debated as one.

Mary - posted on 01/05/2012

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Tracey, as a nurse who has missed more holidays over my lifetime, I have to admit, your tone really grates me.



I don't know where you are from, but I know of absolutely no hospital that closes for any holiday - religious or not. Do we run at reduced staffing during the holiday itself (and this could be Xmas, NY's, Memorial Day - whatever)? Absolutely - our volumes usually don't warrant full staffing, since patients tend to avoid us on those days. There are no elective procedures scheduled, and a lot of people will just ignore any non-emergent issues until after they've had whatever meal/celebration they've had planned. Anyone who has ever worked in either an ER or L&D will tell you that during the peak hours of whatever holiday it is, we are usually a ghost town. It's late in the night and into the next day that we get slammed. ( I hated working Thanksgiving night - we always saw a bunch of woman who ignored their contractions long enough to stuff themselves full of turkey and stuffing, and would always manage to arrive on our doorstep fully dilated, and hurling every last bit of it up!) However, there is always enough of us there to handle any emergencies that come through the door.



Those of us who work in healthcare do accept that we have to give up the luxury of spending every holiday the way the rest of you do - with friends and family. That doesn't mean that we are not still people, with lives outside of our profession, who exist solely to be available when and if you need us. Believe it or not, we too are entitled to some enjoyment of family and friends over the holidays, even if you seem to forget it. Push for legally forcing us to work the holidays that we already do is great way to ensure that even more people avoid choosing the healthcare profession.



As for your specific situation - I get the feeling that you are most likely missing some of the more pertinent specifics. How long was this particular pharmaceutical company closed for? It would have had to have been for a rather lengthy period of time in order to impact production to the extent you are describing. I don't know of any company that still shuts down for the entire week from Xmas to New Year's. My guess is that it was something other, such as a supply issue, that contributed to the shortage.



I also want to point out that even your assumption that ANYone who takes off that Christmas week is doing so because of religion. The only "religious" part of that week is either the eve or the day itself. It's all over for the Christians as of the 26th. To the best of my knowledge, New Year's is celebrated worldwide, with nary a religious connotation. I'm pretty sure that a lot of people who take vacation time then aren't all Christians celebrating the birth of Jesus.



I remember one of the first Christmases I worked (in a Catholic hospital, no less!) and seeing one of the young cardiogists making rounds on Xmas morning. She happened to be Christian, and had two small kids at home. I asked her why she was the one there that day, when I knew that all of her 3 other partners were slightly older Jewish men. Her reply? "They all went skiing for the week, since their kids are out of school."

Jodi - posted on 01/06/2012

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But Tracey, it isn't because of their religious beliefs that this has happened. it is because of a cultural observance.

Krista - posted on 01/05/2012

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That must be incredibly frustrating. I have no issue with some businesses closing for the holidays -- I know ours certainly does, and I enjoy it.

But yes, if that business is providing a vital, life-saving good or service, then they absolutely SHOULD be required by law to ensure that there will be no interruption for their customers over the holidays. In this case, the business absolutely should have ramped up production prior to the holidays, to cover things.

Becky - posted on 01/06/2012

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You're really asking 2 different questions though, Tracy. A pharmacist refusing to give birth control to a single person because they don't believe in premarital sex, or whatever, is a very different issue from a pharmaceutical company being closed down over a holiday. The first scenario is a situation of an individual refusing to do their job based on personal beliefs and no, I don't think they should be allowed to do that. The second is likely a financial decision that has nothing whatsoever to do with religion. You have to pay employees more to work on statuatory holidays. And yes, it can be harder to find people to work statuatory holidays - especially Christmas - but again, I think for many, that has nothing to do with religious beliefs. Who wants to miss Christmas morning with their kids or going out of town over the holidays?
I don't think anyone is disagreeing that it is problematic that there are shortages of so many medications. The pharmacies and the pharmaceutical company know they will be closed over the holiday and really need to step-up production and distribution prior to that happening. And yes, dr's offices that close need to arrange back-up services and fire, police, and emergency services need to remain open over holidays. But it's really not about religious beliefs. Christmas is a cultural holiday, a national statuatory holiday, and I would guess that when most businesses and services decide whether or not to close down over it, the decision has very little, if anything, to do with religious beliefs.

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Tracey - posted on 01/08/2012

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Not yet, but I have booked him into respite tomorrow for a couple of days. Thanks for asking.

Jakki - posted on 01/07/2012

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Hi Tracey - I'm heartbroken at your stories of your son's violent behaviour. Did you manage to get the meds?

Tracey - posted on 01/07/2012

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Jakki I'm going back a few years when you could only buy condoms from a chemist and legally anyone married, unmarried and probably even a child (don't think they are age restricted) can buy them.

Jakki - posted on 01/06/2012

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Umm - this might be off the point, but where do you live that unmarried people can't buy contraceptives? I would imagine this would only happen in places like Saudi Arabia.

Karla - posted on 01/06/2012

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Mary, My bad, I missed the "emergency" part of your statement, I just wanted to point out the medications and services are being effected by religious beliefs in both countries.



I sited the Times article as a demonstration to other religious standings on medical treatment.

Rosie - posted on 01/06/2012

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jodi, i'm not sure what medication tracey's son requires, but when my child was on behavior medication they will only dispense one month at a time. i have to physically go to the doctors office each month and get a script for it as well, they wouldn't call over the phone. it's a controlled substance and therefore are super crazy paranoid about it, and will only dispense one month at a time.

Mary - posted on 01/06/2012

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Karla, maybe I'm missing something, but neither of the two links you provided are about providing emergency services or procedures. Both are about contraception. Now, I am strong advocate of woman's reproductive rights, but there is simply no way one can argue that filling a prescription for birth control is a life-threatening emergency.



The Times article you referenced is about parental religious beliefs impacting the well-being of their children, not healthcare providers. That is an entirely different topic altogether. In most cases, when those situations arise in the healthcare setting, it is the providers who are fighting on behalf of the child so that they can intervene.



These are very different topics of debate.

Karla - posted on 01/06/2012

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Mary, you say:

“Tracey, is there some (new) issue in the UK where emergency services have been halted because an excessive number of employees refused to provide said services on the grounds of personal or religious beliefs? If so, I haven't heard about it, and it certainly had not happened here in the US.”



It’s happening in both countries.

UK:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-...

USA

http://www.aclu.org/images/asset_upload_...





From Mary, “…. absolutely no clue or appreciation for just how much these individuals sacrifice and how much shit we have to swallow on a regular basis in order to "serve" your sorry ass.”



Sorry, but you could have said this without the name calling… just saying, not cool



Jehova’s Witness and Jew…

There are others – Scientology comes to mind. This article lists others as well:

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/...,8599,100175,00.html



The article says, “At the center of controversy are Congregants of Church of Christ, Scientist, along with members of other, smaller sects, including the Followers of Christ Church and the General Assembly and Church of the First Born. “



edit to say, I can't get that last link to work... it's called "Freedom of Religion or State-Sanctioned Child Abuse?" at Time magazine.

Tracey - posted on 01/06/2012

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Mary I do apologise if I have offended you and your profession, I use the word service because in UK the medical profession is called the National Health SERVICE maybe where you are it's called somethig different, maybe I'm grouchy because my sorry ass hasn't slept this week, maybe its because my head is pounding because my son grabbed me round the throat and smashed my head into a wall for forgetting the words to his bedtime story and I know the situation isn't going to improve until he gets more meds which will be who knows when, maybe it's because my sorry ass bank account is several hundred pounds lighter after my son punched his way through furniture and all because drugs companies didn't make suitable arrangements to supply medication over the Christmas period, this is affecting lots of people, and I imagine many have a far more serious condition than my son, my pharmacist advised lots of drugs have run low or run out and they haven't been advised when they are getting more stock.

As to your comment about lack of service (oh dear it's that word again) over Christmas, yes my doctor's surgery closes over the period and there is an emergency number, some pharmacies close and operate on a rota system and our local hospital clears out as many patients as possible before the big day.

All I asked was a very simple question, if a health service (is procedure a less offensive word) is needed should the medical profession get its act together and either do the job themselves or arrange cover so that patients do not suffer.

When I was pregnant my doctor advised me that she didn't believe in abortion and if I wanted one (I didn't) she would get a colleague to see me within 20 minutes. She wouldn't do something so she had an arrangement in place with another doctor so that the care was provided with no time delay and no implications to my health. It appears from other posts that some people / communities are denied this and this I feel is unprofessional, unfair and potentially puts people at risk.

You chose your profession, no-one forced you at gunpoint, everyone knows the health service works bad hours for bad money and I assume you knew this before taking the job. Yes it sucks and yes something should be done to improve it but people don't go to you for fun, they go to you because something is wrong with them and you are the only ones who can fix it. Surely they have the right to have that need seen to by the first available medic and not to worry about will this person treat me or do I have to find an alternative.

I have had single friends ask me to buy their contraceptives as I am married and the chemist won't serve them, if I was not available should they have been left with the options to keeping their legs crossed or risking an unwanted pregnancy or should the chemist have found an another staff member to serve or done their job and sold the product?

Tracey - posted on 01/06/2012

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Jodi - I have asked repeatedly for longer prescriptions to cover holiday periods but I can only have a month at a time. My husband is also diabetic and he gets 6 month prescriptions, but the forms stay at the pharmacy and he can only have a month's supply of tablets at a time, and can't get them early if for example we were going away when they are due.

Mary - posted on 01/06/2012

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Tracey, is there some (new) issue in the UK where emergency services have been halted because an excessive number of employees refused to provide said services on the grounds of personal or religious beliefs? If so, I haven't heard about it, and it certainly had not happened here in the US.

I'm not exactly clear on what requirements you think an person needs to meet in order to qualify to work in public service. Do we all need to be complete and utter martyrs that exist solely for the purpose of serving our fellow man who are devoid of personal and individual morals, ethics or beliefs? If so, that would only allow for a very small number of people who would qualify to be policeman, firemen, social workers or healthcare providers.

It's very obvious to me that you have never worked in one of these professions, and that you have absolutely no clue or appreciation for just how much these individuals sacrifice and how much shit we have to swallow on a regular basis in order to "serve" your sorry ass. The mere nature of our professions means that we habitually see humanity at it's absolute worst. We, more than most, must bear witness to many of the unspeakable atrocities that humans inflict upon one another. It's not our religious beliefs that make it sometimes difficult to do our jobs, but rather basic human morality, ethics, and principles.

There are very few religious beliefs that make it hard, or impossible, for service professionals to fully do their jobs. I don't know of any Christian denomination whose teachings prevents you from working on Christmas, Easter or any other "Holy Day". Typically, if there is some type restriction, those individuals do not chose to pursue a profession that would clash with their rules or restrictions.

In healthcare, there are only two specific faiths (that I can thinkof and have encountered) that have laws that could be insurmountable. The first is the Jew who strictly observes Shabbat (the weekly Sabbath). They are unable to do any type of work from sundown Friday until the first 3 stars appear in the night sky on Saturday. I know a trauma surgeon who does faithfully observe Shabbat. When he was in medical school, his advisers warned him that this would be an issue, and he was advised against pursuing this specialty. He was an unusually gifted student, and just an all-around great human being. He approached several residency programs, and some flat-out turned him down. However, a few of them were willing to work with him. The understanding was this - he could be "off" on every Friday night and Saturday until sundown only if he was willing to work absolutely every Saturday evening into Sunday day, without exception, unless he found coverage. As well, this arrangement existed solely at the discretion of his peers (meaning that all the other residents had to be willing to do additional Friday night coverage in return for a lessened Saturday night requirement). For over 20 years, he has always managed to make it "work", and no one resents him for it, since he offers something in return.

The other example is Jehovah's Witnesses and blood products. In their religion, not only can they not receive any type of transfusion, but they cannot handle the products either. This essentially means that they cannot work in a part of healthcare where blood products are given on an emergent basis. It does limit them from being anesthesiologists or ER/OR nurses and a few others things - but not from working in healthcare completely. WHile they cannot initiate or end the transfusion itself, they can still care for a person while they are receiving it. Again, I've worked with a few JW nurses, and all it meant was that I had to obtain the product, hang it for them, and then disconnect when it was completed. In a non-emergent situation, it was never a big deal (although I suppose I could have been a difficult ass and refused - but we all tend to work together as a team). I should note that this was when I worked on a cardiac floor, and not in L&D, where we do emergently transfuse with regularity. A JW would not be able to work there.

Jodi - posted on 01/06/2012

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Tracey, I also question why you can't get prescriptions for an obviously ongoing medical issue. My husband is diabetic, and he gets his prescriptions for 6 months at a time. So when I know we are going to be travelling, or leading up to seasonal periods (such as Christmas or Easter), I get them filled a couple of months at a time. I have found that if I specifically ask the pharmacist and explain the situation (i.e., we will be away next time the script is due, with Christmas coming up, I am just trying to get organised), they are flexible.

[deleted account]

I'm usualy very quick to jump on the religion is bad bandwagon but I don't see that being the problem here. A manufacturer knows when supplies are short usually BEFORE you do. I think this is a problem with their production, not their religious (if any) observances.

Tracey - posted on 01/06/2012

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In UK it is common for companies to close for 1 - 2 weeks over the Christmas period with employees asked (told) to save 2 days of their yearly holiday entitlement for this (which isn't a problem as most people get between 4 - 6 weeks a year).

I would rather a person with a problem about their job description changed their job than stayed and refused to perform their duties. If I have a medical problem I want to know that it will be treated by whoever I go to (Dr or hospital) and don't have to worry that after waiting several hours in A&E the medical staff could decide my problem offends their beliefs and I have to go somewhere else and start the process again. Most people know what the job entails before they start work. If you don't like the job don't do it.

Should a community be deprived of a health / emergency service because the service provider feels it is against their beliefs, and if that person can't / won't do something should they be forced to arrange immediate alternative cover?

If a fire service decided working on a holy day was against their beliefs should they be forced to provide cover or sit back and hope no-one drops a match that day.

Should the police be allowed to stop working on special days and cross their fingers that everyone behaves themselves. Would a policeman of a certain religion be allowed to not investigate an honour killing / religious sacrifice because he felt those actions were justified?

Should a french muslim policeman be allowed to ignore the fact that wearing the burqa is illegal in public, would his religious beliefs order him to arrest the women not wearing it when his legal duty is to arrest those who do wear it?

The emergency services exist for the well being and safety of the general public so shouldn't they have to provide that service regardless of their personal beliefs.

[deleted account]

First off, Christmas is a national holiday, not a religious one.

Also, it is one day per year. I seriously doubt that a factory shut down for a day would cause such an impact since most medicines are stockpiled by the distributors. I'm guessing a local someone in charge of the meds messed up.

And no, legally forcing anyone to do what is against their religion will only create a vacuum in that position. Yes, I know a young man in need of a job quit because he was asked to do something unethical, and I know a doctor that went into a different line of work for the same reason.

[deleted account]

What medication is it? Because I'm pretty sure there are nationwide shortages on some behavioral/psychiatric meds right now (e.g., Adderral) and some chemotheraphy drugs.

Jodi - posted on 01/05/2012

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I don't think we should be making this a religious issue, because it isn't. Just because Christmas is considered a religious celebration doesn't mean that the cultural aspects of how we celebrate (including closing down businesses, etc) is religious.

I live in Australia, and MANY businesses shut down from about the Friday before Christmas until next week (9th January). Many don't, but it isn't uncommon. So for me, it has become common sense to organise ourselves BEFORE Christmas so we are not having to rely on services, unless it is an emergency, during the Christmas period. Even the postal service operates on skeleton, as do courier companies. It's not a religious thing. It's cultural. So I think trying to bring religion into your argument is incorrect.

Having said that, the pharma companies SHOULD have been better prepared. But so should the pharmacies. They should order up over Christmas because they are the one who KNOW the closing dates of their suppliers.

Rosie - posted on 01/05/2012

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i'm one that thinks it's a managing error as well. this has happened to me with my sons medication as well, just it had nothing to do with any religious holiday. it was probably june.religion has nothing to do with it, its completely the suppliers fault, or the pharmacy.

Karla - posted on 01/05/2012

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My first presumption is that the pharmaceutical company used the holiday as an excuse for falling behind on their supply. To me it seems as though a holiday closing would not effect supplies immediately, but rather a few weeks later.



I do think the pharmaceutical companies that make very important medicines need to practice with the utmost care and be sure to have supplies for those in need.



I wouldn't blame Christmas though - I would blame the management at the phar. co.



I think your questions about religions and health care are different than your example of what happened to you. I don't think religion or moral standing should be involved with what doctors, hospitals, pharmacists and phar. co. provide. When that happens they give themselves too much control.



(edit for typos.)

Becky - posted on 01/05/2012

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I agree with you that the pharmacy was ill-prepared and should have increased production if they were going to be closed for an extended period of time, and I would be very annoyed too. However, I really don't see this as a religion issue at all. Christmas has become much more of a cultural holiday than a religious one. It is celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike and many people enjoy the opportunity to have some time off work and spend time with their families, regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof.
I do agree though that emergency, life-saving services need to be available 24/7/365. I have no issue with a Dr's office being closed for a couple of days around a holiday, because generally you can put off getting your annual physical or getting that cold checked out for a day or 2. But there always needs to be back-up services available. And yes, it is wrong for drugs to be in short supply simply because it is a holiday. However, I think that blaming religion for this is pretty unfair.

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