Jacinta Le Page (Medical Student)
Speech delivered 6 October, 2008
Reproduced with permission
Queen's Hall, Parliament House, Melbourne, Australia
(singing) "Australian's all let us rejoice for we are young and â€¦"
I hesitate to sing the next word due to the restraints I understand that
are being legislated over my conscience.
Hi, I'm Jacinta, and with me here are some of my fellow colleagues who
would like to stress our concerns. We acknowledge some here are not doctors
yet, but eagerly await the day when we can serve our community.
I have received much input from the media, the community, and even
lecturers in relation to this Bill. I have read it over and over, and from
my young perspective, believe that many of these people seem to
misunderstand the significance and ramifications. We are gravely concerned
about what this means for our careers!
Firstly, referring personally to another medical practitioner, as this
Bill states, seems to be clearly participating in abortion. In our classes
in medical school, it has been taught to refer is to simply hint or name
under our breath the Royal Women's Hospital, and the woman we are
counselling will understand immediately where she is to go to get her
abortion. This has been suggested as a way of getting around the conscience
clause. However, this seems disingenuous to me. It does not acknowledge what
it means to refer. Nor does it give weight to the gravity of what this
procedure means to myself. But we must refer to another health colleague
which is far more personal and involving. Furthermore, we fear we will be
required to research for a colleague who will readily 'help' her have an
abortion. Such a personal referral equals participation in the killing.
Secondly, we fear the deep compromise we will be required to undergo. We
are not training to be machine operators or robots. We are trained to deal
with life and death, difficult decisions, communicate and respect patients
and their loved ones from all cultures and walks of life. We are trained to
consider and grapple with the implications treatment decisions,
complications and side effects. We are taught to be honest with our
patients, yet compassionate. To become such a doctor requires integrity and
conscience. However, we understand this bill will force us to detach
ourselves. But our core, our conscience, is more than just a separate and
external compartment to our practice of medicine - it is the foundation of
our being. It is what drives and determines our everyday decisions, as we
deal with patients in all different circumstances. Please, Members of
Parliament, do not force us to merely operate in a system, rather than
engage as a person! Please, do not strip us of our freedom to exercise our
deepest commitment to practising medicine - saving and improving the quality
Thirdly, we fear the potential of this Bill to divide, and estranges us
from our colleagues. Unity and teamwork are of vital importance in the world
of learning and practising medicine - to care for the patient wholistically.
If the law doesn't reflect respect for one's desire to not be involved at
all, then we are concerned this may filter into our future workplaces, and
divide us from our colleagues respect, which currently unifies us in
comradeship and teamwork. It has already affected some of us as students,
without even passing through government! I have already experienced
estrangement, conflict and abuse, and I am only a fifth year student. We are
concerned that it may identify us and singles us out. It may cultivate group
pressure within the medical team in which we work, where failure to
participate is resented. In addition, our disagreeance with abortion, when
it is so universally permissible in our State's legislation, may easily be
read as disagreeing with our colleagues work and efforts. Given the above
concerns, we may strongly consider training in different specialties - which
would only heighten the shortage of GPs and the like. Or, as I am interested
in Obstetrics & Gynaecology, we may consider training elsewhere. I am
concerned I may be better off training in a different state. This is very
significant to me! In this state, we boast, "Victoria, the place to Be".
Please, let legislation reflect this, and not stifle the students and
doctors of the future!