Refusal to Treat PEI Patient Needing Abortion Aftercare is Serious Violation of Medical Ethics

Tuesday, May 26 2015

Refusal to Treat PEI Patient Needing Abortion Aftercare is Serious Violation
of Medical Ethics

NATIONAL – Two doctors denied treatment to a woman at a Charlottetown
hospital in PEI on May 21, because she was seeking aftercare for a medical
abortion. The shocking incident occurred last Thursday. The woman, Courtney
Cudmore, has since gone public with her story and says she intends to bring
legal action against the hospital.

Cudmore had taken medication to end her pregnancy, but the drugs did not
appear to be working, so she went to the Emergency Department at
Charlottetown’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) for follow-up care. According
to Cudmore, the attending physician, Dr. Lantz, refused to examine her even
though she was bleeding and had been waiting over five hours. After
consulting with the gynecologist on duty, Dr. Lantz told Cudmore: “Well, we
are not comfortable dealing with this situation.” He advised her to travel
to Halifax for treatment, a four-hour journey. (PEI is the only province in
Canada that does not provide abortion services.) Cudmore finally managed to
get the treatment she needed from her fiancée’s doctor.

Incredibly, PEI’s Health Minister Doug Currie told the media that “all
proper protocols were followed” and that “the standard quality of care was
followed.” As Cudmore herself said after telling her story, “Does that sound
like protocol?? If it is, my god I never want to see them fuck something

“What happened to this young woman was frightening and inexcusable, and we
applaud Ms. Cudmore’s courage in coming forward,” said Josie Baker, a
PEI-based spokesperson for the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, and a
member of the PEI Abortion Rights Network. “Refusal of treatment for
reproductive care is a serious problem that needs recognition and action.”
Baker noted that other women have also been unable to access follow-up care
after a medical abortion in PEI, referring to research by Dr. Colleen
MacQuarrie that detailed the barriers and hurdles faced by PEI women seeking

The Charlottetown QEH has a policy to not turn patients away without
treatment, as do other hospitals in Canada. But ARCC’s Executive Director,
Joyce Arthur, said it can happen anyway, because doctors are generally
allowed to refuse care that conflicts with their personal and religious
beliefs, such as abortion or contraception. “The practice of so-called
‘conscientious objection’ in reproductive healthcare must end. It’s a
serious violation of medical ethics because it puts the health and lives of
patients in danger and infringes their rights,” said Arthur. “If doctors’
personal beliefs prevent them from carrying out their professional
obligations, which they took an oath to fulfill, they are frankly unfit for
the job and should resign. Refusal of treatment should also be grounds for
malpractice or loss of license.”

The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada supports the recommended actions
outlined by the PEI Abortion Rights Network (ARN) in its May 22 Open Letter
to Premier H. Wade MacLauchlan and Health Minister Doug Currie. Josie Baker
(of both ARCC and ARN) says: “The most urgent requirement is to implement
local access to safe, legal surgical abortion. We also need to establish a
policy framework for medication-based abortions, which should have local
surgical backup as well as a provincial billing code. Further, Health PEI
must lift the veil of secrecy over abortion care by providing more
information about the service and how to access it.”


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