The right to fire those who don’t do their job

In this LA Times piece Crispin Sartwell makes a valid point about the logic behind the right of health care workers to refuse to perform services that violate their moral or religious beliefs.

[Thoreau] argued that although I am under no obligation to try to fix all injustices, I am under something like an absolute obligation to not push forward things that I regard as unjust, to not participate in things I regard as wrong or gratuitously hurtful. Some doctors and nurses regard abortion in precisely this way, taught so by their religion or by their experiences. I don’t happen to agree with them, but the objection is clear and principled, and it ought to be respected.

The idea that, in assuming some function — some career, for instance — I resign my conscience to the institution or to the state is perhaps the single most pernicious notion in human history. It is at the heart of the wars and genocides of this century and the last. It is the first — the only — defense in any crimes-against-humanity trial: I was just doing my job; I was just obeying orders.

I agree with the right of the individual to refuse to perform these services. But the thing is, I also agree with the right of their employers to fire their asses. If you’re a high school biology teacher who happens to be a Creationist and you refuse to teach evolution, go nuts, but you are putting your job on the line and you know it. I mean, if there’s a slippery-slope issue it’s this one. Allowing federal protections to these employees opens the door to all kinds of other possible nightmares. Personally, I think that anti-depressants are way over-prescribed. That is my personal belief. I’m sure there are many others, likely many pharmacists, who have similar beliefs. Would these pharmacists now have the right to deny Paxil to patients? I can think of a dozen other scenarios as well.

Of course, my logic leaves open the door that a sympathetic business could allow or even encourage their employees to do this. I can easily see smaller businesses in conservative states doing this. But I’m also against using federal laws to force pharmacists to prescribe medication that are against their personal beliefs. I may completely disagree with them, but I also feel it is the right of a business owner to sell only those products he wishes to sell. It may suck to live in your small town in South Dakota, but so be it.

By the way, I’m pretty sure this same debate was essentially already covered in Clerks:

4 Comments

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4 responses to “The right to fire those who don’t do their job

  1. blu_stocking

    So… Theoretically, a doctor who was a Jehovah’s Witness could deny you a blood transfusion, and you’d be ok with that?

    Might suck for you if you’re stuck out in South Dakota and they’re the only doctor.

    Just sayin.

    I guess access to birth control is maybe more of a critical issue for those of us with uteruses…

  2. blu_stocking

    ps matt, that’s me, Eileen. x.

  3. Melly

    Really??? You know in South Dakota to know that there is ONE Planned Parenthood there. ONE place where a woman can absolutely go (albeit a day’s journey for most) and once they are inside the door receive medical care without judgment.

    Again, it’s really hard to take that from a man who will never have to worry about where he will find access to birth control, or the even harder to find Plan B for emergencies… for the ladies, our shrinking reproductive rights are very much at the forefront of our thoughts right now.

    I can understand Mom and Pop stores refusing to prescribe Plan B, although I completely disagree, as I think you do too, but in places where there is one pharmacy for miles?? come on. It sucks to be poor poverty stricken you in South Dakota??

    Would you honestly defend a pharmacists right to refuse to dispense (it’s not prescribed) emergency contraception to a woman because she was unfortunate enough to live in South Dakota? How is that not victim blaming? Many women in that situation can not afford to travel to a different state to receive medical care. Are you advocating a return to the coat hanger in the back alley days, or just good old fashioned abstinence? Or are you more of the “spread your legs, lay the eggs” camp?

    I think what the public desperately needs to know is how difficult finding these medications is in the first place!!! Women don’t seek these pills recreationaly, and from the friends I have who have had the unfortunate experience of needing them, it ain’t no trip to the water park. Bleeding, nausea, vomiting cramping, exhaustion… good times.

    For more info check out Midwest Teen Sex Show’s Nikol Hasler’s Quest for Emergency Contraception and then thank your sweet stars that the ‘moral grounds’ defense will continue to make this ultimately a woman’s problem, and never a man’s.

  4. Mafoo

    The issue is not whether I agree with those doctors and pharmacists or whether I’d be ok with it, it’s whether I think that it is a federal issue. Bush wants federal protection for those who deny services and some on the left want federal laws to force those people to provide those services. I simply want neither. I don’t think we need to change anything in that respect. In any sensible situation, a doctor who refused to perform a task – such as filling my anemic ass up with some sweet sweet A-Positive – would be immediately fired and sued. That’s as it should be.

    RE South Dakota:
    I think it’s tragic that South Dakota is stripping away reproductive rights, but part of me thinks they should just go through with it. Let’s have a crazy-ass oppressive state that wants to live in the middle-ages. Their fucked-up example might be the only thing that would put the abortion issue to a rest, as we viewed the skyrocketing of teen-pregnancy rates, etc. This may seem callous, but to be honest, Argentina outlaws abortion and I feel about as close to Argentinians as I do to South Dakotans. It’s tragic in both cases, but maybe we’ll learn from the S.D. situation. Hopefully, in the meantime, there will be human rights refugees fleeing that backwards-ass state for the tolerance of the blue states.

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