The practice combines "the best of modern medicine with the healing presence of Jesus Christ," a brochure at the reception desk announces. An image of the Madonna greets every patient. Doctors, nurses and staff gather to pray each day before the first appointments.
the care they provide to the religious beliefs of their doctors, shunning birth-control and morning-after pills, IUDs and other contraceptive devices, sterilizations, and abortions, as well as in vitro fertilization. Instead, doctors offer "natural family planning"
"If women know before selecting them, then it's quite a legitimate thing to do and might meet the needs of many women and doctors," said Anita L. Nelson of the University of California at Los Angeles, speaking for the organization. "But if you hang out your shingle that says 'All-purpose OB-GYN' and don't offer certain services, that's false advertising."
"It caught me completely off guard," said Elizabeth Dotts, 25, who had a similar experience in Birmingham. "I felt like he was judging me and putting pressure on me. . . . I am the patient. I am the client. It should have been about me -- what I needed. Not what he needed or believed."[emphasis added]
Some experts say such practices are providing substandard care if they do not fully inform patients about all options.
"It's not enough for someone to advertise 'We provide natural family planning' or have a sign up in the waiting room that says 'Only natural family planning available here,' " said Jeffrey L. Ecker, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Harvard Medical School. "The assumption shouldn't be that patients understand exactly what that means. The doctor has an obligation to fully explain all options to their patients."
Some experts also criticize doctors who represent natural family planning as being as effective as birth-control pills, patches and other medical approaches.
"To suggest they are equivalent to modern methods is simply incorrect," said David A. Grimes of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. "These methods do not compare favorably in terms of effectiveness, acceptability and continuation rates."