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Protection of Conscience Project

www.consciencelaws.org

Service, not Servitude
Periodicals & Papers

2015

Behrens KG.  Why physicians ought not to perform virginity tests.  J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2014-102344

  • Abstract: In this article I argue that it is not morally justified for physicians to perform virginity tests. First, I contend that, on the basis of the principle of non-maleficence, physicians should not perform virginity tests, because of the potential harms to those who are tested that can result from such tests. Second, I highlight some of the social harms that the practice causes, and argue that physicians ought not to be complicit in causing these harms. Third, I argue that physicians ought not to perform virginity tests on the grounds that testing for virginity is scientifically impossible, and physicians are morally obliged to practise according to scientific principles. Finally, I contend that an ethically sound response to virginity testing requires that the medical profession as a whole should follow the example of the Quebec College of Physicians in declaring this practice by physicians as unethical.

Biggar, N. (2015). Why religion deserves a place in secular medicine. Journal of Medical Ethics, 41: 229-233.

  • Abstract: As a science and practice transcending metaphysical and ethical disagreements, ‘secular’ medicine should not exist. 'Secularity' should be understood in an Augustinian sense, not a secularist one: not as a space that is universally rational because it is religion-free, but as a forum for the negotiation of rival reasonings. Religion deserves a place here, because it is not simply or uniquely irrational. However, in assuming his rightful place, the religious believer commits himself to eschewing sheer appeals to religious authorities, and to adopting reasonable means of persuasion. This can come quite naturally. For example, Christianity (theo)logically obliges liberal manners in negotiating ethical controversies in medicine. It also offers reasoned views of human being and ethics that bear upon medicine and are not universally held - for example, a humanist view of human dignity, the bounding of individual autonomy by social obligation, and a special concern for the weak.

Bolt EE, Snijdewind MC, Willems DL, van der Heide A, Onwuteak-Philipsen BD.  Can physicians conceive of performing euthanasia in case of psychiatric disease, dementia or being tired of living? J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2014-102150

  • Abstract:  Background Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (EAS) in patients with psychiatric disease, dementia or patients who are tired of living (without severe morbidity) is highly controversial. Although such cases can fall under the Dutch Euthanasia Act, Dutch physicians seem reluctant to perform EAS, and it is not clear whether or not physicians reject the possibility of EAS in these cases.
    • Aim To determine whether physicians can conceive of granting requests for EAS in patients with cancer, another physical disease, psychiatric disease, dementia or patients who are tired of living, and to evaluate whether physician characteristics are associated with conceivability. A cross-sectional study (survey) was conducted among 2269 Dutch general practitioners, elderly care physicians and clinical specialists.
    •  Results The response rate was 64% (n=1456). Most physicians found it conceivable that they would grant a request for EAS in a patient with cancer or another physical disease (85% and 82%). Less than half of the physicians found this conceivable in patients with psychiatric disease (34%), early-stage dementia (40%), advanced dementia (29–33%) or tired of living (27%). General practitioners were most likely to find it conceivable that they would perform EAS.
    •  Conclusions This study shows that a minority of Dutch physicians find it conceivable that they would grant a request for EAS from a patient with psychiatric disease, dementia or a patient who is tired of living. For physicians who find EAS inconceivable in these cases, legal arguments and personal moral objections both probably play a role.

Cheon J, Coyle N, L. Wiegand DL, Welsh S. Ethical Issues Experienced by Hospice and Palliative Nurses. Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing. 2015;17(1):7-13.

  • Abstract: Nurses encounter ethical dilemmas in their clinical practice especially those associated with palliative and end-of-life care. The Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (HPNA) members were asked to participate in an ethics survey. The survey aimed to identify ethical issues experienced by hospice and palliative nurses, identify resources available to them and barriers if any to their use, and to identify how HPNA can be of support to hospice and palliative nurses.

One hundred twenty-nine (n = 129) HPNA members completed the online survey. The information from each of the surveys was carefully reviewed, and responses were collapsed into 6 themes.

The ethical dilemmas included inadequate communication, provision of nonbeneficial care, patient autonomy usurped/threatened, issues with symptom management and the use of opioids, issues related to decision making, and issues related to discontinuing life-prolonging therapies.

Approximately two-thirds of the nurses used resources in an attempt to resolve the ethical issues, including a formal ethics consultation, involvement of the palliative/hospice team, consulting with other professionals, and use of educational resources.

One-third of the nurses said there were institutional or personal barriers that prevented the ethical dilemma from being resolved. Participants suggested ways that HPNA could help them to effectively manage ethical dilemmas.

Nieminen P, Lappalainen S, Ristimäki P, Myllykangas M, Mustonen A-M. Opinions on conscientious objection to induced abortion among Finnish medical and nursing students and professionals.  BMC Medical Ethics 2015, 16:17  doi:10.1186/s12910-015-0012-1

  • Abstract: Conscientious objection (CO) to participating in induced abortion is not present in the Finnish health care system or legislation unlike in many other European countries.
    •  Methods: We conducted a questionnaire survey with the 1st- and the last-year medical and nursing students and professionals (548 respondents; response rate 66-100%) including several aspects of the abortion process and their relation to CO in 2013.
    •  Results: The male medical respondents chose later time points of pregnancy than the nursing respondents when considering when the embryo/fetus 'becomes a person'. Of all respondents, 3.5-14.1% expressed a personal wish to CO. The medical professionals supported the right to CO more often (34.2%) than the nursing professionals (21.4%), while ≥62.4% could work with someone expressing CO. Yet ≥57.9% of the respondents anticipated social problems at work communities caused by CO. Most respondents considered self-reported religious/ethical conviction to be adequate for CO but, at the same time, 30.1-50.7% considered that no conviction would be sufficient. The respondents most commonly included the medical doctor conducting surgical or medical abortion to be eligible to CO. The nursing respondents considered that vacuum suction would be a better justification for CO than medical abortion. The indications most commonly included to potential CO were second-trimester abortions and social reasons. Among the medical respondents, the men were more willing to grant CO also in case of a life-threatening emergency of the pregnant woman.
    •  Conclusions: While the respondents mostly seemed to consider the continuation of adequate services important if CO is introduced, the viewpoint was often focused on the staff and surgical abortion procedure instead of the patients. The issue proved to be complex, which should be taken into consideration for legislation.

Rich BA.  Your morality, my mortality: conscientious objection and the standard of care.  Camb Q Healthc Ethics. 2015 Apr;24(2):214-30. doi: 10.1017/S0963180114000528

  • Abstract: Recently the scope of protections afforded those healthcare professionals and institutions that refuse to provide certain interventions on the grounds of conscience have expanded, in some instances insulating providers (institutional and individual) from any liability or sanction for harms that patients experience as a result. With the exponential increase in the penetration of Catholic-affiliated healthcare across the country, physicians and nurses who are not practicing Catholics are nevertheless required to execute documents pledging to conform their patient care to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Health Care Services as a condition of employment or medical staff privileges. In some instances, doing so may result in patient morbidity or mortality or violate professional standards for respecting advance directives or surrogate decisionmaking. This article challenges the ethical propriety of such institutional mandates and argues that legal protections for conscientious refusal must provide redress for patients who are harmed by care that falls below the prevailing clinical standards.