Medical students’ attitudes towards conscientious objection: a survey

J Med Ethics 2014;40:609-612 doi:10.1136/medethics-2013-101482

Sven Jakob Nordstrand, Magnus Andreas Nordstrand, Per Nortvedt, Morten Magelssen

Objective: To examine medical students’ views on conscientious objection and controversial medical procedures.

Methods: Questionnaire study among Norwegian 5th and 6th year medical students.

Results: Five hundred and thirty-one of 893 students (59%) responded. Respondents object to a range of procedures not limited to abortion (up to 19%)—notably euthanasia (62%), ritual circumcision for boys (52%), assisted reproduction for same-sex couples (9.7%) and ultrasound in the setting of prenatal diagnosis (5.0%). A small minority (4.9%) would object to referrals for abortion. In the case of abortion, up to 55% would tolerate conscientious refusals, whereas 42% would not. Higher proportions would tolerate refusals for euthanasia (89%) or ritual circumcision for boys (72%).

Discussion: A majority of Norwegian medical students would object to participation in euthanasia or ritual circumcision for boys. However, in most settings, many medical students think doctors should not be able to refuse participation on grounds of conscience. A minority would accept conscientious refusals for procedures they themselves do not object to personally. Most students would not accept conscientious refusals for referrals.

Conclusions: Conscientious objection remains a live issue in the context of several medical procedures not limited to abortion. Although most would want a right to object to participation in euthanasia, tolerance towards conscientious objectors in general was moderate or low. [Full Text]

Dignity and the Ownership and Use of Body Parts

Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics / Volume 23 / Issue 04 / October 2014, pp 417-430

Charles Foster

Abstract: Property-based models of the ownership of body parts are common. They are inadequate. They fail to deal satisfactorily with many important problems, and even when they do work, they rely on ideas that have to be derived from deeper, usually unacknowledged principles. This article proposes that the parent principle is always human dignity, and that one will get more satisfactory answers if one interrogates the older, wiser parent instead of the younger, callow offspring. But human dignity has a credibility problem. It is often seen as hopelessly amorphous or incurably theological. These accusations are often just. But a more thorough exegesis exculpates dignity and gives it its proper place at the fountainhead of bioethics. Dignity is objective human thriving. Thriving considerations can and should be applied to dead people as well as live ones. To use dignity properly, the unit of bioethical analysis needs to be the whole transaction rather than (for instance) the doctor-patient relationship. The dignity interests of all the stakeholders are assessed in a sort of utilitarianism. Its use in relation to body part ownership is demonstrated. Article 8(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights endorses and mandates this approach. [Full Text]

Canadian Liberal party leader orders end to freedom of conscience and expression in party

Justin Trudeau, leader of the Canadian Liberal Party, has declared that a purported “right” to abortion and contraception is more important than freedom of conscience and expression.  He has reaffirmed his intention to enforce his views by suppressing freedom of conscience and expression with respect to abortion among Liberal members of parliament; presumably, this will extend to the rest of the federal Liberal Party as well.  When questioned about the effect of his decision on the ‘Catholic vote,’ he asserted that he, himself, is Catholic, and many Catholics were upset when previous Liberal governments decriminalized homosexual conduct and legalized divorce. [CBC News]  In making the statements, Trudeau was reinforcing a policy announced in May and reiterated in June, when his office confirmed that the policy applies to current MPs as well as all future Liberal candidates. “Mr. Trudeau believes that everyone is welcome to their own personal views,” said his office, but must conform to the party line. [The Guardian]  In response, Prince Edward Island Liberal MP Lawrence MacAulay, who professes to be “pro-life,” issued a statement saying, “Despite my personal beliefs, I understand that I will have to vote the party position.” [Lifesite News]

The 4th Annual Conference on Medicine and Religion

March 6-8, 2015
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

Spiritual Dimensions of Illness and Healing

It is a grievous mistake to keep a wall of separation between medicine and religion. There is a division of labor but a unity of spirit. The act of healing is the highest form of imitatio Dei.
~Rabbi Abraham Heschel (1964)

Rabbi Heschel’s words seem as relevant today as they did in 1964, when he spoke them to physicians at the American Medical Association. Contemporary western culture continues to divide carefully care of the soul from care of the body, apportioning the former to religious communities and the latter to medicine. The division of spiritual and material care of the human person has allowed us to meet many clinical needs efficiently, but it has also wrought unwanted outcomes, including increased mechanization of care and isolation in the experiences of illness and dying.  [More Details]

The Problem of Persons: Public Bioethics and Contending Moral Anthropologies

September 15, 2014 (7:00pm – 9:00pm)
Keane Auditorium, McGivney Hall,
Catholic University of America
Washington, D.C.

The Center for Cultural and Pastoral Research is please to host a conversation with Prof. Carter Snead on the topic “The Problem of Persons: Public Bioethics and Contending Moral Anthropologies,” on Monday, September 15, at 7:00 p.m.

In this lecture, Prof. Snead will argue that the richest way to understand contemporary disputes in public bioethics is through the lens of moral anthropology.  At bottom, such disagreements – over abortion, embryo-destructive research, assisted reproductive technologies, the definition of death, end of life decisionmaking, and research involving human subjects – are conflicts regarding the nature and identity of human persons.  The anthropological premises underlying the most prominent viewpoints in this domain will be illuminated and examined. [More details]

 

Freedom of conscience

Presented to the Rotary Club
Powell River, British Columbia, Canada

Sean Murphy*

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you this evening. C.S. Lewis once observed that a lifetime of learning leaves a man a beginner in any subject, so I am here as a beginner who is still just beginning. The specific focus of the Protection of Conscience Project is freedom of conscience in health care. However, rather than address issues specific to health care I am going to speak more generally about freedom of conscience. I think a broader approach, a bigger picture, will be more useful for you as Rotarians. I’ll begin with some notes about the history of freedom of conscience and religion. . .  Full Text

Protest held outside Polish embassy in defence of dismissed doctor

News Release

Society for the Protection of Unborn Children

Protest at Polish Embassy in London

London: A demonstration has been held outside the Polish embassy in London to protest against the dismissal of Professor Bogdan Chazan from his post at Holy Family Children’s Hospital in Warsaw.

The protest was organised by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC)

Professor Chazan was dismissed by the mayor of Warsaw after refusing to grant an abortion to, or refer for an abortion, a woman who was carrying a child with a disability. The child was born and has since died naturally.

Following Professor Chazan’s dismissal, Donald Tusk, Prime Minister of Poland, made a statement saying: “Regardless of what his conscience is telling him, [a doctor] must carry out the law”, according to Polskie Radio.

Regarding the Prime Minister’s comment, Magdalena Ozimic (age 31), one of the protesters and originally from Szczecin (north-west Poland), said:

“It is very important for me to be a witness here as a Pole. We live in terrible anti-life times when even in Poland, where a huge majority declare themselves Catholic, the Prime Minister stands for killing the innocent. As a young adult I wanted to become a doctor, believing I would be saving people’s lives. Unfortunately nowadays, young people who want to save lives may have to think carefully before embarking on a medical career. I hope Dr Chazan will get more support in Catholic Poland and we can do our best here to show our support as pro-lifers.”

The event was attended mostly by young people, particularly from the Polish community. The aim of the demonstration was to call for the reinstatement of Professor Chazan to his post at Holy Family Children’s Hospital and to highlight the injustice of the dismissal. Unfortunately, the demonstration drew no visible reaction from the embassy itself; when enquiries were made, protestors were told that the ambassador was absent.

One Polish demonstrator, Slawek Wrobel, age 36, a historian, said: “I cannot believe that, 10 years after the reign of John Paul II, our Polish pro-life pope, someone who cares about life can be dismissed from their job. I am also astonished that the Mayor of Warsaw, who has put herself forward as a good Catholic, has sacked Dr Chazan.”

Particpants handed out leaflets to passers-by detailing the case of Professor Chazan’s dismissal and the situation surrounding Professor Chazan’s refusal to participate in the abortion.

Katarzyna Jabrocka, age 34, said: “I came here to support the belief that Dr Chazan shouldn’t be dismissed because he supported life. He should be enabled to continue his work as a doctor, and we are here today to support him.”

SPUC’s communications department can be contacted on:

  • email news@spuc.org.uk
  • mobile 07939 177683
  • direct dial landline 020 7820 3129
  • Twitter @spucprolife

Freedom of conscience for Ontario physicians a prominent concern

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the state regulator of the practice of medicine in the province, is reviewing its policy on freedom of conscience for physicians (Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code).  A first phase of public consultation ended 5 August, 2014 and attracted almost 1,800 responses in a discussion forum, most supportive of freedom of conscience [CMAJ].

The straw poll on the consultation page asked the question, “Do you think a physician should be allowed to refuse to provide a patient with a treatment or procedure because it conflicts with the physician’s religious or moral beliefs?”  The results of the survey (the accuracy of which seems uncertain) showed that, of 32,912 respondents, 25,230 (77%) answered “Yes”, 7,616 (23%) answered “No” and 66 were undecided.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission unsuccessfully attempted to suppress freedom of conscience in the medical profession in Ontario in 2008.  In its 2014 submission to the College, the Protection of Conscience Project stated:

The Ontario Human Rights Commission made a serious error in 2008 when it attempted to suppress freedom of conscience and religion in the medical profession on the grounds that physicians are “providers of secular public services.” In its public perpetuation of this error, the Commission has contributed significantly to anti-religious sentiments and a climate of religious intolerance in Ontario. Both were on display earlier this year when it became front page news and a public scandal that three physicians had told their patients that they would not recommend, facilitate or do what they believed to be immoral, unethical, or harmful.