Canadian assisted suicide/euthanasia bill lacks protection of conscience provision

Member of Parliament Steven Fletcher has introduced Bill C581 in the Canadian House of Commons, a private member’s bill to legalize physician assisted suicide and euthanasia.  He has also introduced Bill C582 to establish a Canadian Commission on Physician Assisted Death, a body that would “produce public information on physician-assisted death and to support law and policy reform with respect to physician-assisted death.”  Bill C581 does not include a protection of conscience clause for physicians or health care workers who refuse to participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide for reasons of conscience.  Due to Canadian rules of parliamentary procedure and unwillingness of the governing party to revisit the issues, it is highly unlikely that the bills will come to a vote.

Project article on Quebec euthanasia bill published in Turkish law journal

Comparative Current Criminal Law Series, 14: Medicine/Health LawThe three part series Redefining the practice of medicine: Winks and nods and euthanasia in Quebec (Bill 52: An Act respecting end-of-life care) has been translated into Turkish and published in volume 14 of the Comparative Current Criminal Law Series by Özyeğin University in Istanbul.

Midwife ordered to pay $17,000 after opposing abortions at her hospital


Natalia Dueholm

How much does the truth cost?  For a Polish midwife, it could cost up to 50,000 złotych (approximately $17,000).

The management of a private Polish hospital has threatened legal action against Agata Rejman, a midwife, after she discussed abortions performed at the Specialist Hospital Pro-Familia (right) in Rzeszów.

Rejman’s legal troubles began after a January 2014 press conference organized by Senator Kazimierz Jaworski.  During the conference, Rejman described her anguish after having to participate in abortions at the hospital.
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Therapeutic homicide in a neonatal unit?

The Mary Dilemma: Case Study on Moral Distress

Sean Murphy

The Canadian Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Journal published  an article in late 2013 about the moral distress suffered by a Catholic nurse who witnessed the death of a newborn infant. The baby was allegedly starved to death in a neonatal intensive care unit at a Toronto hospital between 27 October and 22 November, presumably in 2012 or earlier. . .The Journal article does not disclose the names of the hospital or the people involved “for reasons of confidentiality”. . . While the Journal article raises very interesting questions from the perspective of freedom of conscience and religion for health care workers, it is prudent to withhold further comment on the allegations until it is clear what action, if any, will be undertaken by state authorities in the Province of Ontario.
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The Mary dilemma – A case study on moral distress

Newborn infant starved to death in Toronto hospital

One of the nurses who was caring for her today looked at me with tears in her eyes and said “this is not right – if they took  her home and didn’t feed her they would be charged – why is it okay for us to do this?”

Fr. Michael Della Penna, ofm*  and Francisca Burg-Feret*

This paper begins with a case study describing the perspective of a Catholic nurse who experienced moral distress while observing the tragic death of a newborn infant named Baby Mary. The purpose of this paper is to raise awareness and educate readers about the concept of  moral distress and promote a greater understanding of the lived experience of Catholic health care providers who undergo this trauma. It also provides an analysis and some recommendations for practice that can help health care professionals make good ethical choices in difficult situations based on their faith.
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Entrenching a ‘duty to do wrong’ in medicine

Canadian government funds project to suppress freedom of conscience and religion

 Sean Murphy*

A 25 year old woman who went to an Ottawa walk-in clinic for a birth control prescription was told that the physician offered only Natural Family Planning and did not prescribe or refer for contraceptives or related services. She was given a letter explaining that his practice reflected his “medical judgment” and “professional ethical concerns and religious values.” She obtained her prescription at another clinic about two minutes away and posted the physician’s letter on Facebook. The resulting crusade against the physician and two like-minded colleagues spilled into mainstream media and earned a blog posting by Professor Carolyn McLeod on Impact Ethics.

Professor McLeod objects to the physicians’ practice for three reasons. First: it implies – falsely, in her view – that there are medical reasons to prefer natural family planning to manufactured contraceptives. Second, she claims that refusing to refer for contraceptives and abortions violates a purported “right” of access to legal services. Third, she insists that the physician should have met the patient to explain himself, and then helped her to obtain contraception elsewhere by referral. Along the way, she criticizes Dr. Jeff Blackmer of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) for failing to denounce the idea that valid medical judgement could provide reasons to refuse to prescribe contraceptives. . .
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Pennsylvania legislator abandons plan to amend state constitution

State Representative Gordon Denlinger has suspended work on a bill to amend the state constitution to ensure freedom of conscience for citizens who refuse to provide services for reasons of conscience or religion.  He explained that he encountered difficulty in drafting the amendment so as to avoid providing a legal pretext for unjust discrimination.  []

Conscientious objection to “patriarchal norms”

 Hymen restoration and ‘virginity certificates’ in Sweden


 Michael Cook*

Informed consent and conscientious objection are easy to fulminate about, but tricky to discuss with consistency. Take, for instance, the delicate topic of requests for hymen restorations and virginity certificates. Worldwide, an estimated 5,000 women were victims of honour killings in 2000. If a young woman from a culture which sanctions honour killing approaches a doctor, what should he or she do?

Refusal is not a popular or even, in some jurisdictions, a legal option for doctors who are asked to refer for an abortion or to prescribe contraception. But a request which reinforces “patriarchal norms” is different.
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Zero tolerance against patriarchal norms? A cross-sectional study of Swedish physicians’ attitudes towards young females requesting virginity certificates or hymen restoration

J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2013-101675

N.Juth, N. Lynöe


Many countries, Sweden among them, lack professional guidelines and established procedures for responding to young females requesting virginity certificates or hymen restoration due to honour-related threats. The purpose of the present survey study was to further examine the attitudes of the Swedish healthcare professionals concerned towards young females requesting virginity certificates or hymen restorations. The study indicates that a small majority of Swedish general practitioners and gynaecologists would accommodate these patients, at least given certain circumstances. But a large minority of physicians would under no circumstances help the young females, regardless of speciality, years of practice within medicine, gender, or experience of the phenomenon. Their responses are similar to other areas where it has been claimed that society should adopt a zero tolerance policy against certain phenomena, for instance drug policy, where it has also been argued that society should never act in ways that express support for the practice in question. However, this argument is questionable. A more pragmatic approach would also allow for follow-ups and evaluation of virginity certificates and hymen restorations, as is demonstrated by the Dutch policy. Hence, there are some obvious advantages to this pragmatic approach compared to the restrictive one espoused by a large minority of Swedish physicians and Swedish policy-makers in this area.
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U.S. Responses to Japanese Wartime Inhuman Experimentation after World War II: National Security and Wartime Exigency

Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics / Volume 23 / Issue 02 / April 2014, pp 220-230

Brody H, Leonard SE, Nie J-B, Weindling P.


In 1945–46, representatives of the U.S. government made similar discoveries in both Germany and Japan, unearthing evidence of unethical experiments on human beings that could be viewed as war crimes. The outcomes in the two defeated nations, however, were strikingly different. In Germany, the United States, influenced by the Canadian physician John Thompson, played a key role in bringing Nazi physicians to trial and publicizing their misdeeds. In Japan, the United States played an equally key role in concealing information about the biological warfare experiments and in securing immunity from prosecution for the perpetrators. The greater force of appeals to national security and wartime exigency help to explain these different outcomes.
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