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Protection of Conscience Project

Service, not Servitude


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. . .
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"Take two aspirin and call me after the election"
Responding to Charo RA. Warning: Contraceptive Drugs May Cause Political Headaches
Perspective, N Engl J Med. 2012 Mar 14

  • Sean Murphy* | "Take two aspirin and call me after the election" is the kind of advice one would expect from former members of President Obama's transition and HHS review teams in response to protests about the HHS birth control mandate, so the closing words of Professor R. Alta Charo in her NEJM Perspective column are not unexpected. . .
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Telephone installation, lethal injection and conscientious objection in pharmacy
Responding to Archer F. "Religious Conscience Should not Outweigh Professional Obligations to Patients." National Post (Holy Post BLOG),18 July, 2010.

  • Sean Murphy* | . . .Mr. Archer's comparison of pharmacy services to telephone service is also unsatisfactory because it presumes that all pharmacy services are morally equivalent to telephone service; that, for example, no moral or ethical questions are raised by the assertion that pharmacists are obliged to provide abortifacients and embryocides, and may eventually be required to provide drugs for suicide, euthanasia and executions.. . .
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Conscientious Objection: Resisting Ethical Aggression in Medicine
Responding to Cantor JD. Conscientious Objection Gone Awry - Restoring Selfless Professionalism in Medicine. N Eng J Med 360;15, 9 April, 2009

  • Sean Murphy* | Judging from the title of her article, Professor Julie D. Cantor believes that "selfless professionalism" in medicine is being destroyed by health care workers who will not do what they believe to be wrong. She also implies that Americans have access to health care only because health care workers are compelled to provide services that they find morally repugnant . . .Such anxiety is inconsistent with the fact that religious believers and organizations have been providing health care in the United States for generations. . . .
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To Market, To Market
Responding to Vischer, Robert, The Pharmacist Wars
The American Enterprise Online, 14 February, 2006

  • Sean Murphy* | . . . It is remarkable that a free-market advocate should assign the state the function of ensuring access to a product - an economic function admirably achieved by free markets - while denying the state a role in the preservation of fundamental freedoms - a political function for which it exists. Happily, it is possible to resolve this contradiction, restoring to the market and to the state the functions proper to each, and to do so in a way that may prove congenial to Professor Vischer.. . .
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The Silence of Good People and Non-cooperation with Evil
Responding to: Charo RA. The Celestial Fire of Conscience - Refusing to Deliver Medical Care
N Eng J Med 352:24, June 16, 2005

  • Sean Murphy* | It is especially noteworthy that, in an essay about the exercise of freedom of conscience by health care workers, Professor R. Alta Charo has virtually nothing to say about freedom or conscience. "Conscience clauses," yes: conscientious objection, to be sure: and she mentions acts of conscience and the right of conscience. But nothing about freedom, and, on the subject of conscience itself, the most she can muster is, "Conscience is a tricky business." . . .
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BLOG on the Reading Down of Conscience Protection
Responding to: Charo RA. The Celestial Fire of Conscience - Refusing to Deliver Medical Care
N Eng J Med 352:2471-2473; 24, June 16, 2005

  • Iain T. Benson* | . . . This is the standard line from those who wish to frustrate the proper accommodation of conscience and religion. Resist accommodation by insisting on "one standard" and "non-discriminatory access" to the "service" sought. It is our old friend "convergence pluralism" again - - this time in medical ethics. . . "one size fits all" is the latest attempt to force the views of some on everyone and that is, itself, discriminatory, totalitarian and unethical itself. . .
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Silencing the Conscience of Medical Professionals
Responding to: Charo RA. The Celestial Fire of Conscience - Refusing to Deliver Medical Care
N Eng J Med 352:24, June 16, 2005

  • John Mallon* | . . . Professor R. Alta Charo. . . thinks . . . that the law should require health care professionals to violate their consciences in certain cases . . .What is truly breathtaking here is that she is willing to use the very words of Gandhi and King (and elsewhere, C.S. Lewis) to argue against precisely what they were fighting for: a just society in which one does not have to suffer punishment for following one's conscience. . .
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Service or Servitude: Reflections on Freedom of Conscience for Health Care Workers Responding to Cantor J, Baum K., The Limits of Conscientious Objection - May Pharmacists Refuse to Fill Prescriptions for Emergency Contraception?
N Eng J Med 351;19, November 4, 2004

  • Sean Murphy* | . . .As the exercise of freedom of speech does not force others to agree with the speaker, the exercise of freedom of conscience does not force others to agree with an objector. Concerns about access to legal services or products can be addressed by dialogue, prudent planning, and the exercise of tolerance, imagination and political will. A proportionate investment in freedom of conscience for health care workers is surely not an unreasonable expectation. . .
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Postscript for the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada:
Morgentaler vs. Professors Cook and Dickens
Responding to Cook RJ, Dickens BM, "In Response". J.Obstet Gyanecol Can 2004; 26(2)112;  Cook RJ, Dickens BM, Access to emergency contraception [letter] J.Obstet Gynaecol Can 2004; 26(8):706.

  • Sean Murphy* | . . . the arguments of Professors Cook and Dickens for mandatory referral are unsupported and even contradicted by their own legal and ethical references. Regulatory officials with the power to enforce the views of Cook and Dickens are unlikely to discover this in the pages of the Journal, since, by editorial fiat, the discussion was terminated with the publication of their 'final word' on the subject. Here, then, is the postscript to the discussion, supplemented by developments in the United Kingdom and Belgium that have a bearing on the issue. . .
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In Defence of the New Heretics: A Response to Frank Archer
Responding to Archer F. Emergency Contraceptives and Professional Ethics.
Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal, May 2000, Vol. 133, No. 4, p. 22-26

  • Sean Murphy* | Before taking action that they may later regret, those who would coerce or discriminate against conscientious objectors, or drive them from the practice of pharmacy, would do well to revisit Frank Archer's critical review . . . Although many pharmacists have accepted the review as a definitive ethical statement, it is insufficient warrant for repression of freedom of conscience within the profession.
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