The biggest challenge that faces doctors in the Caribbean is trying to reconcile religious views and teachings with the law, and the wishes and rights of patients. Doctors should not discriminate against any patient, even if they have strong religious views; however, even with the best will in the world, emotions spill over and some patients have less access to, or experience a delay in, treatment. A common example would be termination of pregnancy.
Doctors feel threatened, especially if they find it difficult to separate legal and ethical issues in their own minds
Another challenge facing doctors is the amount of information patients now have with regards to their own treatment and their legal rights. Doctors feel threatened, especially if they find it difficult to separate legal and ethical issues in their own minds.
One area where this comes out strongly is in the backlash in relation to rights of children and indeed older people. Some people take a simplistic view that an ill elderly person is incapable of making their own decisions about their treatment; a doctor may be lured into failing to carry out a formal consent procedure by a universal assumption that “doctor knows best”.
Other issues that have been raised relate to the age of consent for children to medical treatment. Minors feel that the age of consent should be reduced because 16 and 17-year-olds are able to do other things without parental consent; for example they can consent to sex, they can drive and they can work but they cannot go to the doctor without their parents.
Some doctors argue against this as they feel changing things will destroy the fabric of the family. But many of these families are already broken and we think that by insisting on including parents in the consent procedure, we will magically mend the family.