Brisbane doctor blasts ‘harmful’ religious discrimination bill

stonewall medical centre doctor ryan williams religious discrimination bill
Photo: Jordan Hirst

A Brisbane doctor who specialises in LGBTIQ healthcare has slammed the government’s “harmful” religious freedom bill.

Dr Ryan Williams is a GP at Stonewall Medical Centre in Brisbane. The long-running centre is one of four in the city specialising in care for LGBTIQ people.

“I’m a proud gay man myself, and the majority of my patients don’t identify as heterosexual. As a result I’m a fierce advocate for LGBTIQ+ people and their healthcare,” he said.

“We have data showing LGBTIQ+ Australians’ health is significantly worse than heterosexual Australians, in particular their mental health.

“I’m very concerned about the implications of the religious discrimination bill on my patients and the queer community in general.”

Dr Williams spoke out about the controversial legislation at the religious discrimination rally in Brisbane this month.

He warns doctors could use the bill’s provisions to “express judgment on or even interrupt affirming treatment to transgender patients with gender dysphoria.”

“[Doctors] could also devalue or denigrate the validity of loving LGBTIQ relationships and parenting,” he said.

“This is despite the existence of quality scientific evidence to the contrary.

“They could indirectly or even directly block access to medication, specialist medical, surgical and psychiatric care without offering alternative care pathways.”

Religious freedom laws ‘can’t promote rejection or exclusion’

Dr Williams said when graduating medical school, he swore on a version of the Hippocratic Oath containing the ethical principle ‘Do No Harm’.

“Therefore I’m vehemently opposed to any laws that permit harm rather than outlawing it. I became a doctor to help people and not harm them,” he said.

“The idea of protecting religious freedom is not a bad one. But the way that this government is going about it is, quite bluntly, crap.”

Dr Williams said he is a Christian and also regularly attends Brisbane’s inclusive Metropolitan Community Church.

He said Jesus Christ’s teachings can be summarised into “two key principles, love God and love your neighbour”.

“Religious freedom is when my ability to love God or love my neighbour is being impinged,” he said.

“Not my ability to hurt or hate people. Laws should not promote rejection, exclusion or suffering in the name of religion. That’s the true definition of an ‘abomination’.”

‘Discriminatory’ healthcare provisions in bill

Speaking to the ABC on Monday, Attorney-General Christian Porter denied the bill would allow health services to discriminate in the services they provide.

“The bill makes very clear that, while religious hospitals and aged care facilities can maintain a faith-based ethos among staff, they cannot turn away patients or deliver services differently based on religion,” he said.

But the National LGBTI Health Alliance disagree in their submission on the latest draft. The Alliance says provisions relating to health professionals objecting to “providing a particular health service” are problematic.

“[We] believe the provisions continue to entrench discriminatory access barriers to culturally safe and high quality health care for LGBTI people,” the submission read.

“Medical professionals responsible for the most essential healthcare [could] refuse to undertake procedures, or provide information, prescriptions, or referrals related to services most commonly or exclusively used [by LGBTI people].

“For example, hormone treatment for trans and gender diverse people and the dispensing of Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PreP) to gay men.”

Public submissions on the latest draft of the bill closed on January 31. Christian Porter plans to introduce the bill to parliament later in the year.

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