Remote Medical Advice for Abortions Latest Unexpected Use of Video Conferencing Systems
The use of video conferencing systems so doctors can remotely prescribe an abortion pill is not only controversial – it is one of many uses of the technology that was never anticipated.
In Iowa, state regulators from the Iowa Board of Medicine are now considering banning the use of a video conferencing system which lets doctors prescribe and dispense abortion pills.
Supporters of the video system include Planned Parenthood, which says it is “a safe way to distribute the abortion medication in rural areas where no abortion providers are available,” according to the Des Moines Register.
Here’s how it works. Before the video conferencing session, the patient gets an ultrasound and meets with a counselor.
A physician, who is typically located in Des Moines, looks at a patient’s file and then speaks to her through the video conferencing system. If the doctor approves the patient for an abortion – brought on by the use of a prescribed drug (Mifepristone) – the physician will open a drawer at the clinic (remotely) so the patient can take the abortion drug.
“The patient takes the drug while in video contact with the doctor and with a Planned Parenthood staff person present. The patient then receives a second drug and instructions on taking it within 24 to 48 hours. A follow-up visit is scheduled within two weeks,” the newspaper reported.
So far, over 3,000 abortions were given in Iowa using this system.
The procedure has led to controversy. Some 20,000 people have signed a petition which is opposed to the use of the video conferencing system for abortion pills. Some medical pros have also tried to get the teleconference approach to abortions banned.
Use of the video conferencing system for abortions should not come as a surprise. Other types of medical procedures have used video conferencing for patients located in remote areas. It is more convenient for doctors and is a likely a cost-saver. It makes the procedures more accessible, too.
But abortions are controversial – so the basic disagreement over abortion carries over to the remote nature of the advice.
Opponents to abortion will likely add reasons why the use of this kind of technology is not appropriate – because they want to cut down the number of abortions however they are given. The most obvious reason why this kind of procedure should be blocked relates to whether the patient is getting sufficient medical advice. Planned Parenthood claims they are. Opponents will likely say they are not.
Video conferencing is also being used in other ways that were never expected.
For instance, the system is being used in the court system. Called tele-justice, the technology means prisoners do not need to be transported to court for some of their legal proceedings, according to a KBZ blog. It is less expensive and may be safer if a prisoner is prone to violence. But it also generates controversy because defendants are not getting the same chance to appear in person and face their accusers in person. In Texas’ Collin County, videoconferencing is used for some plea hearings and arraignments. Also, Collin County police officers can be located in the department building instead of courtrooms when giving testimony through tele-conferencing equipment.
Tele-conferencing systems are also being used by police for surveillance globally, KBZ (News - Alert) said. In Chicago, since 2006, the technology was used to arrest 1,200 suspects. In Paris, the Metro is using some 2,500 cameras on buses for surveillance. In the United Kingdom, 6,000 cameras are used in surveillance of the subway. That has led to controversy, too, because of civil liberties concerns. But given the increased risk of violence related to terrorism, there are many people supporting the use of surveillance equipment.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson