Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude

Personal Experience in Switzerland in 1989

THE FUTURE OF OBSTETRICS AND GYNAECOLOGY: The Fundamental Right To Practice and be Trained According to Conscience: An International Meeting of Catholic Obstetricians and Gynaecologist

Organised by the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations (FIAMC) and by MaterCare International (MCI)Sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Health Pastoral Care ROME, June 17th-20th, 2001

Reproduced with permission

Niklaus Waldis, MD *

I always wanted to become a general practitioner. In 1986, when I was about to finish my specialisation for genaral practitioner, I was working for eighteen months in a Gynecology and Obstetrics department and I realized the following facts:

- 1. It is very interesting to practice Gynecology/Obstetrics according to the principles of the Holy See.
- 2. Many women would like to be treated by gynecologists who are not implicated in abortion and are familiar with natural family planning. Unfortunately they hardly can find any.
- 3. There is more need for catholic Gynecologists than for general practitioners. Thats why I changed my mind and tried to become Gynecologist.

The Swiss curriculum for specialisation in gynecology and obstetrics requests at least one year to be spent in a University-clinic or in a so-called A-level clinic. I applied in 1986 for a training place in Lucerne, which at that time was the only A-level clinic, where no abortions were done. I kept reminding the head of the gynecology department until I was back from a 2-years stay in a mission hospital in Lesotho. In 1989, after 3 years patience, I got the answer, that there was no training place available before another 4 years.

Not satisfied with this outcome, I wrote to all the other fourteen A-level clinics of Switzerland an application with the mention, that I could not perform abortions for reasons of conscience. Eight of them refused me right away or offered a place only after two or more years. Some of them claimed, that in a democracy one had to respect the decisions made by the majority of the citizens or that they had to offer certain services like abortion according the list of duties for their hospital.

Six head of departments invited me for a personal interview, but no one accepted me. Three of them refused me because of my attitude concerning contraception and sterilisation; the forth one because of my refusal to do In Vitro Fertilisation; the fifth one was favorable to me, but he draw back because his staff did not accept me; and the last one tried by all means to persuade me to change either my attitude or my project to become a gynecologist/obstetrician, so that it would not be he, who refused me the training place. He finally preferred to be understaffed than to have a staff-member refusing to do abortions.

That is why I remained a general practitioner. Ever since I have heard from many other young physicians in Switzerland, who for the same reasons as I did not start, gave up or had to give up their training for specialisation in gynecology and obstetrics.

Rome, June 18th-20th 2001