Help Dr Katarzyna Jachimowicz in her legal fight to retain freedom of conscience for doctors in Norway
Last year, we learned about the story of a brave Polish doctor fighting for physicians in Norway to exercise their right to freedom of conscience, in their work. Dr Katarzyna Jachimowicz has been fighting, for herself and for other doctors to have this fundamental right respected and vindicated by the state of Norway.
She is ready to take this fight to Norway’s highest court, and, even, to an international court, if necessary.
With this petition, let us express our solidarity with the doctor, who, on our behalf, is fighting this fight, alone. Let us, therefore, utterly object to any state trampling on the basic right of every doctor – to do as their conscience dictates.
Unfortunately, as predicted, the judgement of the Lower Court (i.e., the Court of First Instance), was not successful.
And, moreover, the Lower Court’s judgment includes this absurd quote: "The fact that a woman (patient) who is requesting an IUD is referred to another doctor (other than GP of that patient), due to the GP’s conscientious objection, represents, according to this Court, a form of discrimination due to her sex. According to this Court, it is sufficient to note, that, it follows from human (physical) nature, men will not be subject to the situation that they have to go to another doctor than their GP due to the doctors conscientious objection to this type of reproductive preventive medical treatment."
It is worth recalling this story:
Dr Katarzyna Jachimowicz has been a doctor for 24 years, and worked as a family doctor at the Family Outpatient Clinic in Sauherad (Sauherad legesenter) for 4 years. During this period, there was no complaint about the doctor's work. From the beginning of her employment at the clinic, management knew that Dr Jachimowicz would not agree to prescribe or insert an IUD (intrauterine device, aka the “coil”) into a woman. It should be noted, here, that, in Norway, it is not only competent gynecologists who prescribe and insert IUDs, but also family physicians in general practice.
So, from the beginning of Dr Jachimowicz’s employment, this was not a problem for the clinic, as other doctors were willing to prescribe an IUD, even though the device could malfunction. It is worthwhile to add that an IUD is not only a contraceptive, but sometimes, if a child has been conceived, the device can also cause miscarriage.
In fact, an IUD can prevent the nesting of an embryo in the uterus, and this action can result in the death of the human embryo.
Thus, the contract between the clinic and Dr Jachimowicz contained a clause which stipulated that Dr Jachimowicz would not perform these procedures. And, the management agreed to this arrangement.
Between the years 2011-2014, there was an intense debate – and, opposition to - the right of family doctors in Norway to exercise their right to freedom of conscience in their practice.
Doctors who stood their ground were subjected to detailed investigation.
And then, on January 1, 2015, a new law was passed forbidding family doctors from refusing to perform any activity on the basis of their beliefs...except, however, when lacking the appropriate skills.
But, the January, 2015 monitoring letter instructed physicians to adapt to the new regulations. And so, the issue intensified at the beginning of 2015.
In Dr Jachimowicz’s case, a state-sanctioned review of her clinic was performed by a provincial doctor, and the report included a statement that the conscience clause could not be applied in relation to the prescription and insertion of an IUD. But, the report only stated that Dr Jachimowicz declared that she "would not insert an IUD," but did not include her conscientious objection.
Throughout the Telemark region, where Dr Jachimowicz’ clinic is located, four physicians opposed these practices and did not perform them.
All of these doctors were expected to leave work on their own initiative, and three of them decided to take this step. However, Dr Jachimowicz stayed at the clinic. As a result, the managing director of the outpatient clinic fired Dr Jachimowicz from work in December, 2015.
It should be added that, while Dr Jachimowicz is a Polish woman, she speaks Norwegian (her husband is also Polish) and works, using the same methods, as doctors from Norway. Her dismissal, therefore, was not a form of discrimination on the grounds of nationality, but only on the grounds of conscience.
It is hard to believe that in Norway, a country that speaks so much about tolerance and human rights, basic freedoms, like that of freedom of conscience, are not respected.
Dr Jachimowicz was kicked out of work only because she listened to her conscience and did not want to contribute to killing. The details of the dismissal leave no doubt that her dismissal is a violation of fundamental human rights and intolerance.
On October 31st, her trial starts before the Norway’s High Court (or, Court of Second Instance).
Let us hope that this Court finds that doctors, guided by their right to freedom of conscience, may not be discriminated against.
The number of signatures signifies the number of people in defense of Dr Jachimowicz on petitions about this matter at CitizenGO. The Norwegian Ministry of Health confirmed last year that it received 120,000 signatures on her behalf regarding this issue.
It is important that we send the Norwegian Ministry of Health even more signatures, and, thus, show that we do not agree on restricting the basic right of every doctor to work in harmony with his or her conscience.
We encourage everyone to sign this petition in defense of Dr Katarzyna Jachimowicz. We petition the Norwegian Minister of Health to create such legal conditions that doctors can practice their profession in harmony with conscience.