Letter: A bitter Pill for parents to swallow

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Sir: Regarding your leading article 'A girl's clear right to confidentiality' (5 November), and the accompanying report about girls under 16 not having to obtain parental consent before being supplied with contraceptives by their doctors, there does not seem to be much concern for the rights of parents to have some say in the matter, or about the potential risks to the future health of these girls who are still growing and developing.

In practically every other area of life parents are responsible for their children's behaviour and activities until they are at least 16, if not 18. Why should this subject, which is of especial importance, be any different?

It seems to be another example of the state encroaching on the right of parents to be responsible for their children's lives and welfare; this sort of thing can only erode the status and function of the family in society.

The possibility of doctors losing their jobs seems a very draconian threat - again an example of the state entering an area previously left to the professional judgement of the doctor concerned, who was aware of his or her responsibility to both the girl and her family.

Your leading article mentions the Hippocratic oath and the need for doctors to be reminded of their obligations under it. Part of this runs:

The regimen I adopt shall be for the benefit of my patients according to my ability and judgement, and not for their hurt or for any wrong. I will give no deadly drug to any, though it be asked of me, nor will I counsel such, and especially I will not aid a woman to procure abortion.

The reference to a 'deadly drug' is primarily to euthanasia, but it can also be applied to chemical contraceptives: the Pill at least potentially acts as an abortifacient, and the 'morning after' Pill certainly does so. These are 'deadly drugs' then for the life which has been newly conceived.

One of the most worrying aspects of all this is that there is no real debate about these issues in Britain and it is automatically assumed that there is nothing wrong with contraception or abortion.

Yours sincerely,



6 November