Malta’s doctor’s union has cried foul over a proposed equality law, warning it could have the unintended side effect of legitimising abortion and euthanasia.
Malta Medical Association president Martin Balzan warned the wording of the bill, which has been in the pipeline for several years, is so generic that it risks forcing doctors into taking controversial moral choices.
“Let’s say a patient asks a doctor for a euthanasia pill or for advice on how to get an abortion and the doctor refuses because it goes against his morals. According to the proposed law, the doctor will risk getting fined €10,000… a consequences which goes beyond the intended scope of the law.”
Abortion and euthanasia are both illegal in Malta, but Balzan argued the Equality Law could have “the unintended side effect” of introducing these practices through the back door.
“The law’s stated objective is anti-discrimination, something which is long established in medical ethics. If a doctor discriminates against a patient because of his ethnicity or sexual orientation, the Medical Council can already sanction him.”
“However, the law is now digressing into issues that aren’t about discrimination but are related to morality.”
Discussion over this bill led the Medical Council to propose an amendment specifically exempting health care professionals from participating in any procedure or administering any treatment that they find objectionable as a matter of conscience.
It also said the law should oblige the Health Department to provide a list of healthcare workers or institutions providing legal health services as well as their contact information.
However, the pro-choice doctors’ lobby Doctors for Choice came out against this proposed amendment, warning it would have a very negative effect on minorities accessing healthcare.
“If our government believes in equality, it must reject this amendment,” it said. “Professionals, doctors included, must not be given a right to discriminate and refuse to offer care to minorities.”