Conscientious Objection: A Quick(ish) Answer

Journal of Medical Ethics

Mary Neal

The Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) [HL] Bill, introduced by the crossbench peer Baroness O’Loan, received its second reading in the House of Lords on Friday 26th January and successfully proceeded to the committee stage.  In a post on this blog the following day, Iain posed a very reasonable question about clause 1(1)(a) of the Bill.  That clause would allow health professionals to refuse to be involved in “the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment”, and Iain asks how this can be compatible with existing civil and criminal law, under which it is unlawful to fail to withdraw treatment (including life-sustaining treatment) from a competent patient who no longer consents to it, or from a patient who lacks capacity if treatment is no longer in her best interests.

Before responding, I should declare an interest: I’m a spokesperson for the Free Conscience campaign, which supports the Bill.  I endorse the Bill’s premise that healthcare professionals should, in key areas of practice, benefit from statutory conscience rights that are both meaningful and effective. . . [Full Text]

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