Sunday, May 17, 2009

Graduations: pleasure and politics

Phew! I am pleased to report that the graduation tilt-a-whirl has officially stopped and all of my events are over. I attended an undergraduate graduation recognition ceremony, Masters and Doctoral hooding ceremonies, along with the universitywide banquet for students of color and the university commencement ceremony. I am TIRED.

I do enjoy these events, though... getting to see students celebrate their accomplishments, meeting their family members and friends, seeing myself as part of a team both within my department and in the larger university. I came away also very glad that we have some event planners in our crowd who know how to manage getting the students organized, on and off-stage, and making sure everyone can hear us and all the names can be pronounced clearly. I hooded my first doctoral student, which was exciting and gratifying. I was and am incredibly proud.

After giving my own graduation speech and listening to others, I can testify that this was a truly difficult year to speak at graduations/hoodings/commencements. My own speech mirrored those by my colleagues--a bad year economically also offers graduates potential to be part of the changes we need to see in our country and opportunities to be entrepreneurial. Obama's speeches at ASU and Notre Dame echoed some of this same tone.

So, let's speak of Obama's speeches. I have been sent copies of the texts from both speeches from numerous friends, family, and colleagues. They are both thoughtful, politic, poetic even. He (and his speechwriters) tailored both speeches to address the controversies swirling at both campuses: ASU's decision *not* to offer President Obama an honorary degree, and Notre Dame's decision *to* invite Obama as commencement speaker and offer him an honorary degree regardless of his support for reproductive choice. I had a hard enough time speaking where I know people will like me; I can't imagine speaking where people were actively protesting me and where my success or failure would be recorded in papers nationwide. I thought he handled these controversies with grace and humor, for the most part. I suppose that as a politician, President Obama has had a lot of experience with protesters, so it might be easier for him.

As a strong supporter of women's rights as well as LGBT rights, I am very concerned about one section of the President's Notre Dame speech related to abortion. He says:

Because when we do that -- when we open up our hearts and our minds to
those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we
believe -- that's when we discover at least the possibility of common

That's when we begin to say, "Maybe we won't agree on abortion, but we
can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made
casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions.

So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions,
let's reduce unintended pregnancies. (Applause.) Let's make adoption more
available. (Applause.) Let's provide care and support for women who do carry
their children to term. (Applause.) Let's honor the conscience of those who
disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women." Those are things we can do. (Applause.)

Here is my question: What is a sensible conscience clause? To me, that would mean that if you don't want an abortion, you don't need to have one. If you don't want to distribute morning-after pills or birth control pills, you should pursue a job other than pharmacist. If you don't want to perform abortions, you should work in a job other than gynocologist or obstetrician. I don't think that medical staff should have decisions about who they serve and which procedures they will do. I am sure this isn't what Obama meant, but I am not sure what he did mean.

If a conscience clause HAS to exist and individual providers can opt out of certain procedures and services, the medical facility in which they are located should be required to have someone on staff who will do the procedure/service and/or provide referral information. (And referral may not be feasible if there are no other nearby facilities, nearby facilitaties covered by someone's insurance, or if there is not available public transportation to another facility; in that case, I would say that someone on staff MUST be able to offer the procedure/service.)

On a similar topic, I am annoyed by Mary Ann Glendon's decision to decline the Laetare Medal. Well, I would respect her decision, if I could be convinced that she would also decline the medal if the Commencement speaker was someone who supported/advocated for the death penalty. Either you hold with Catholic beliefs regarding the sacredness of life or you don't, you know? That said, I acknowledge that it is her decision, and I am fine for her to make it.

Well, enough of the graduation politics. I am glad that the semester is officially over, and that I am not teaching summer school classes. I plan to write all summer, and I hope to feel excited and proud at what I accomplish this summer. I hope your experiences are similar.


Anonymous said...

Every occupation has things that we are asked to do that try our consciousness. It seems that you have only given people permission to be a change agent if and only if they agree with your philosophical commitments. It tears at the heart of human freedom and responsibility.

By this reckoning, I have no business doing what I am doing. Yet, I desire to be the difference I want to see in the world, even if people tell me I have no business trying.

No, I am not a medical professional but I strive to pursue every opportunity to use my gifts and talents to love and serve other human beings in a way that affirms their dignity. I constantly interact with people who do not understand why I do what I do, think I am wrong for doing what I do, and accuse me of operating according to principles that could not be further from my thought landscape.

Yet, I can't help but call you to the carpet if you believe someone has no business being a pharmacist or OB-GYN if they happen to be a committed Catholic.

Lesboprof said...

I am not sure that you actually get my point. I don't think you cannot be a pharmacist or OB-GYN if you are a committed Catholic. I think that if you want to be a pharmacist, you have to agree to supply a patient with drugs prescribed for them. You cannot use your own religious beliefs to decide who you will or will not serve. As you say, some aspects of any job are trying, and may contradict your beliefs, but they are still a part of the job.

Pharmacists, for example, take an oath: "At this time, I vow to devote my professional life to the service of all humankind through the profession of pharmacy." All humankind--meaning gay men and lesbians. They also have a code of ethics that prescribes: "A pharmacist promotes the right of [patients'] self-determination and recognizes individual self-worth by encouraging patients to participate in decisions about their health." That means that your patients get to determine what they want and you don't get to do that for them. It also says, "A pharmacist avoids discriminatory practices, behavior or work conditions that impair professional judgment, and actions that compromise dedication to the best interests of patients."

The role of a pharmacist or doctor is not to save their patient's soul, but to serve them.

Anonymous said...

A pharmacist does much more than simply dispense medications. They screen various files, watching for violent interactions, and double-check that dosages match the appropriate measures by which they are prescribed. A pharmacist can ethically refuse to dispense medication because he or she has unique training that focuses on the effects of various medications. The doctor may not necessarily be aware of an interaction that could happen or the way a drug may manifest with another condition.

I fill all of my medications at the same pharmacy, even though my primary care physician involves an array of doctors. I frequently ask the pharmacist about the medications I'm taking, particularly as it relates to interaction with over-the-counter medications that I take rather regularly.

Granted, a pharmacist cannot substitute a medication (beyond the generic form of a brand name) without consulting the prescribing physician. But in today's day and age of "a pill for this, a pill for that" a pharmacist forms a key member of a medical team.

We rarely make decisions about our health in a vacuum. Helping me make informed decisions means having the ability to inform and wave a red flag if something's amiss. In the case of a life-threatening complication, I would say that a pharmacist is duty bound to not provide the medication even if the patient insists.

Lesboprof said...

But a pharmacist should not deny a patient medication if there is no medical reason not to do so, just on the basis of their own personal religious beliefs. Just because a pharmacist doesn't think a teen should have sex doesn't mean that they should have the right to deny a patient birth control pills.

Anonymous said...

And therein lies the need for a sensible conscious clause. Birth control pills are utilized for any number of treatments including mitigation of acne and painful periods. Something like the morning after pill has only one purpose, but I generally support its inclusions in rape kits because it is embedded in the treatment of a different event. I don't think that a store should discontinue selling a type of herbal tea because it can be used to facilitate an underground abortion. But we also live in an age of increasing regulation about over-the-counter and herbal remedies (thus it's a hassle should I need to purchase Sudafed on a Sunday.)

A medical professional can, in my opinion, have any number of medically sound reasons to not perform an abortion. I find it disheartening that a procedure like abortion has a different place in our medical awareness than other surgeries. When I was 12, I needed to have a tooth uncovered, a surgical intervention that requires two slits in my gums. I'm constantly amazed at the level of consent and referral necessary to get this sort of procedure done, yet current policies dance around the idea of referring to abortion as a surgery, calling the procedure a choice and treating it on a causal, out-patient basis.

I personally believe that physicians are correct for resisting such laissez-faire characterization of such a procedure. Moreover, a physician's resistance can stem from any number of factors that combine together to affirm the humanity and dignity of the persons under their care. To be sure, people exist at the extremes; yet I do not find the professionals at the front lines of these ethical dilemmas to be nothing more than an ideological extremist. We currently have a saying common in medical care that a patient pursued something AMA.. against medical advice.

Being a professional means considering the full gamut of the "What if"s that confront you in your practice. Decisions involve an incredible number of dimensions. The more people seek to extend their profession in service of others, the greater level of significant and personal ethical dilemmas they will confront.

I want people who strive to be compassionate and loving to be professionals. I want to see them in classrooms, hospitals, engineering firms, court rooms, legislatures, everywhere. But as someone strives to be compassionate and loving, I am sure that they will confront an ethical dilemma that steers them in a way I personally do not believe I would go. Yet just as someone can be an ardent pacifist and never view war as a solution, someone can be an ardent supporter of humanity and never view abortion as a solution.

Sammi said...

Doctors used to (some still do) take the Hippocratic oath to "do no harm." So it is ok to rip the limbs off a baby (remember half of the victims are girls), or burned with caustic solutions, or sucked out?

Pseudo-academes like yourself worry about their robes and pretties and not the lives of humans. Search your soul, how much time or money have you given to help others? Be honest, no false altruism. Do you give 10% of your income to help others?

Lesboprof said...

Sammi, you don't know anything about me and what I do in my private life. I certainly give of my time, money, and talents as they can be useful in the community. Just because I do not agree with you about abortion doesn't mean that you should assume that I do not contribute to the community. I just construe harm (and viable life) differently than you do.

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