Features

Denying care

Human Race | Correction and clarification in the Merrill case

Issue: "Street warfare," April 7, 2007

WORLD on its March 3 "Human Race" page cited a California television report and asked, "Should a Christian pediatrician deny care to a toddler with an ear infection because of her mother's tattoos?" We were implicitly attacking the character of an individual, based on secondhand information, without giving him a chance to respond-and that is wrong.

Readers and friends of the Bakersfield doctor in question, G. Alexander Merrill, came to his defense. Fellow churchgoer Stew Fleeman described Merrill as "the classic old-fashioned doctor" and said "a large part of his practice is devoted to low-income families." Merrill, who directs Christian Medical Services, was kind enough to speak with WORLD after the fact and confirm what actually happened.

Merrill said patients arriving at his Christian Medical Services are told "they have to be properly dressed, they can't have any tattoos or any body piercings. Whoever comes here cleans up their act so they can get along with other people." The parents, seeking treatment for a daughter's ear infection, had been so instructed, yet appeared with tattoos. Office staff asked them to cover the tattoos, but they refused and disrupted the office, Merrill stated.

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At that point they were asked to leave. Merrill told WORLD he thought the family hoped to provoke a public outcry over his policies-which it did-but that he stands by them. "Our main thing is that it doesn't represent Christianity. It doesn't represent conservative clientele who don't want to see these things."

David Stevens, chief executive officer for the Christian Medical and Dental Associations and a practicing physician, acknowledged that Merrill was operating within guidelines set by the American Medical Association for establishing office standards in a private practice. But he noted current campaigns by pro-abortion groups to deny licenses to pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for the abortifacient drug RU-486, and to OB-GYNs who refuse to perform abortions. Stevens said that denial of care for superficial reasons "adds fuel to the fire for those who are trying to take away the right of conscience from health-care professionals."

Stevens said, "It is a terribly poor witness for Christians to say they are running a Christian practice to then deny care to sinners. We treat people all the time when they have a health problem that is a consequence of sinful behavior. . . . This is messy business but it is the one we as physicians are called to."

Close-ups

KENNEDY: Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church pastor and television evangelist D. James Kennedy has been moved to a rehabilitation hospital in Michigan following cardiac arrest in December and a January surgical procedure to implant a pacemaker-defibrillator. Friends say the well-known author and teacher has shown little improvement, and the Coral Ridge website has not updated his condition in nearly a month, but officials say they remain optimistic about his recovery.

NIGERIA: A Christian schoolteacher in Nigeria was brutally beaten to death by a mob of angry Muslim high-school students after she allegedly desecrated the Quran. According to reports, Oluwatoyin Olusase was supervising an exam when she took a stack of books from a student she suspected of cheating and threw them out the door. Among the books, apparently, was a copy of the Quran. Witnesses say she was beaten then set on fire. Students also beat and injured a Muslim principal who tried to intervene on her behalf.

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