Mexico enacts provision protecting freedom of conscience for physicians, nurses

Sean Murphy*

Mexico has added a provision to its General Law on Health recognizing freedom of conscience of all physicians and nurses in relation to all services, except in emergencies and life-threatening situations.  In doing so, those responsible took note of existing provisions in The Bioethics Code for Health Personnel and The Code of Conduct for Health Personnel.  The latter includes a particularly striking passage:

32.  It should be emphasized that doctors are  professionals of science and conscience, and cannot be reduced to mere instruments of the patient’s will, since, like the patient, they  are free and responsible persons with a unique collection of values that regulate their lives.

There is no requirement for referral, which many objecting health care workers would find unacceptable because of concern that referral would make them complicit in what they believe to be wrongful conduct.  The new provision is specific to freedom of conscience and does not address issues of access and availability of non-objecting personnel, which will presumably be managed administrative measures or other legal means.

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