Manitoba lesbian couple says doctor refused them because of sexual orientation

A Manitoba lesbian couple rejected by a family doctor from Egypt for religious reasons says Canada must better educate foreign-trained physicians.

Andrea Markowski said she and her partner Ginette were stunned when the Winnipeg doctor told them during a “meet-and-greet” appointment she was uncomfortable accepting them as patients and had never treated “people like you” before.

The doctor said she only treated “husbands and wives,” said Markowski, who is legally married to her partner of 18 years.

I’m not sure what to think of this situation. On one hand, I wouldn’t want a doctor who wasn’t comfortable with me. On the other hand, is it right to allow a doctor (who is paid by the government) to refuse to treat “those people” (whoever “those people” might be… black or Jewish or lesbian etc.)

The hippocractic oath says a doctor must treat all patients equally. A doctor can (at least in the UK - I’m not sure about Canada or the US) refuse to provide birth control if it goes against their religous principles but they could not refuse to treat patients. A related issue to this came up in my family, my mother was a nurse on the first ward in Britain devoted to AIDS patients (incidentally opened by a Catholic hospice) and some of the doctors and nuns wouldn’t treat them and it took the nuns who ran the hospice shaming people into it in some cases by pointing out that it was contrary to the spirit of Christianity not to care for the sick. It got very heated indeed for a bit I remember.

I do think though the newspaper article is also not a innocent as it looks and is trying to advance the idea of homosexuality as just another outlook on the world -no better or worse than liking white or dark chocolate -which of course is untrue.

I would think they can deny them fertility treatment, if that’s what they were seeking. But ordinary medical treatment can’t be denied. That would be unjust discrimination.

I agree with this.I don’t agree with the idea of comparing homosexuals with being Black,Mexican,Oriental or any racial minority.Not trying to be hateful,uncharitable or homophobic,God loves these people as he does any sinner.I’m also not trying to be politically correct.Our Heavenly Father can deliver anyone from whatever sin they are bound by.Peace.Rocky.

It depends. If you look at the orientation only and they are not practicing the behavior they may very well be born with it and therefore should be given minority treatment. Then again I don’t believe in giving any special treatment to minorities, just equal treatment. There is no sin in the orientation alone. One can comfortably state they are a homosexual person, not be practicing, and therefore not be in a state of sin.

Where does it say a doctor most treat all patients equally?

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

The doctor is just being honest by suggesting another Doctor might take better care of these particular patients and that follows more with the oath then having a blind eye to her own prejudice. Pre-judgment is not always evil, if you know you cannot serve someone to the best of your ability for any reason, then it should be reasonable and honorable to refuse your service for it could possibly cause more harm then good in the long run.

She should be obligated only if it was a life and death situation that needed imediate action, this is just not the case.


Doctors tend to specialize. Heart surgeons are not the best choice for orthopedics, internists are not up to date on pediatrics, gynecologists are not specialists in neurology. Perhaps the doctor here was simply being honest that she was not the best choice for treating the types of disorders and diseases that are inherent to homosexuals.

You mean the same diseases straights get?

And lesbians have a very very low STD rate for your info

I’ll need to see a copy of your license to practice medicine, doc. And which medical school did you attend, again?

I don’t need a medical degree to share common knowledge

I thought it was pretty well known that lesbians have a low STD rate…

I didn’t attend medical school but my cousin is a nun and doctor and I showed this to here and she felt unless the couple were asking for treatments that contravened religous teaching the doctor had a clear duty to provide care. Which is my own feelings on the matter, had they asked for abortions/birth control then I’d back the doctor otherwise it sounds like culturual bias about homosexuals more than a reasoned argument against homosexual behaviour.

(That’s a big “Unless.”)

I read the article. Perhaps there was discussion of future artificial insemination, since many lesbian couples do choose to go that route. I don’t know the full range of what was discussed and posited by one or both of them, with the physician in question.

I’m a firm believer that, other than life-and-death situations, physicians have a right to treat according to conscience, as long as they also refer those patients to alternate doctors who will treat.

Personally, I don’t want to go see a doctor who cringes every time I walk into her/his office, regardless of why he/she is doing so.

What are the disorders and disease inherent to lesbians?

I want context. What were the couple wanting?

Apparently, the encounter was a standard “meet and greet”, with no procedures requested.

Here is what the medical director of the clinic had to say:

Dr. Gwozdecki said Dr. Elias interviewed the couple, took their medical history and had already initiated the doctor-patient relationship when one of the women asked Dr. Elias if she had a problem with their same-sex relationship. Dr. Gwozdecki said Dr. Elias was upfront with her religious beliefs – which are opposed to homosexuality --and disclosed she had not treated lesbian patients.

And here is more information from one of the lesbians:

It was pretty simple. She and her same-sex partner Ginette had just arrived from Yellowknife. They were looking for a good family doctor. Dr. Elias was accepting new patients. In a country where finding a GP can take months of agony, the match appeared to be a no-brainer.

But judging by the confused look Ms. Markowski she says she saw on Dr. Elias’s face, nobody had mentioned their sexual orientation ahead of time.

“When I introduced myself and introduced Ginette as my partner, it took [the doctor] a little while to put it together. When she did, she looked really uncomfortable.”

She says her encounter with Dr. Elias - who trained in Egypt and moved to Canada five years ago - turned for the worse when the trio retreated to an office.

“We started running through my medical history and [the doctor] could not look at me. She was flustered. She couldn’t focus. I knew something was up, so I asked her, ‘Is our sexual orientation an issue for you in terms of your ability to treat us?’”

Ms. Markowski alleges Dr. Elias soon confirmed her suspicions.

“She said, first thing, that it was against her religion, and second, that she had no experience caring for lesbian or gay patients.”

but there does appear to be another side to it so it’s not as clear cut perhaps:-

“Dr. Elias felt she should disclose to them her personal religious views,” said Thor Hansell. “That was for the purpose of allowing them to make a decision of whether or not that might be relevant to them wanting her to become their doctor or not. That was perceived as a refusal to treat. I think that was unfortunate because that was not the intention.”

umm…why on earth? she’s a docter, not somebody you go to gossip and chat with

But they should feel comfortable with each other. If I were a lesbian and needed a Pap smear I would want to see a doctor who is not flustered at the thought of doing a pelvic on me. I would also want a doctor with whom I could comfortably discuss my family situation. She told them her religion because, in her view, that would have an impact on how she treated them and they needed to decide if they were willing to still see her.

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