Liberty of conscience is critical for individual doctors
"Lies at the very heart of our integrity"
13 June, 2011
Reproduced with permission
"To sacrifice conscience and
be concerned only with service provision is to
destroy the heart and soul of medicine."
'Liberty of conscience is critical for individual
doctors as it lies at the very heart of our
integrity,' says founder of Medicine with Morality
He was speaking at unique 'Spirituality and
Brisbane, Australia. Dr. Lachlan Dunjey, founder
of Medicine with Morality, an Australian group,
told a gathering of 220 Christian doctors and
medical professionals that doctors should not be
compelled to take part in a procedure they do not
agree with for moral reasons.
"Liberty of conscience is critical for individual
doctors as it lies at the very heart of our
integrity," he said. "It is conscience that must
compel doctors to refuse to participate in
treatments they believe to be un-ethical.
"It is not enough for doctors to simply be
providers of medical services on demand from
consumers or third parties, providing all that is
legal whether or not it is consistent with their
ethical base. To sacrifice conscience and be
concerned only with service provision is to destroy
the heart and soul of medicine."
Dr. Dunjey from Perth, Western Australia, was
speaking at the 8th Annual Christian Medical
Conference in Brisbane, Australia, that took place
June 11-12, 2011.
The conference mainly looked at cases of
"miracles" with data provided by the speakers, but
this conference there were also several speakers who
looked at the wider side of ethics in medicine.
Dr. Dunjey, who is also founder of the
Liberty of Conscience Declaration, commented on
the Section 8 provision of the 2008 Victorian
(Australia) abortion bill that compels doctors to be
complicit in the referral process and said, "Until
it is reversed, the refusal of doctor's right of
conscience has paved the way for compulsory
participation in other unethical procedures such as
physician assisted suicide.
"Infringement of conscience is a serious
challenge facing modern medicine. Medical codes of
conduct must never be subject to degradation by
government. Governments may legislate to permit
certain practices or procedures but governments must
never force doctors to violate their conscience by
compulsory engagement in such practices or
He quoted J. Scott Ries, MD as saying: "When
legal code supersedes moral code, the slope of a
culture's decline is steep and swift."
He reminded the audience of medical professionals
that on the fiftieth anniversary of the Nuremberg
medical trials in 1996 at a conference titled
"Medicine and Conscience" doctors warned of the
threatening separation of medicine from morality and
that physicians must be above state-decreed
"The remarkable thing is that although the 2006
Victorian Charter of Human Rights and
Responsibilities clearly states the right to freedom
of thought, conscience, religion and belief and that
this must not be limited in observance or practice,
the Victorian government in passing the Section 8
provision failed to heed its own charter.
"This was even more remarkable in light of the
fact that the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations
Committee drew attention to this breach and put two
questions to Parliament neither of which was
answered. The Victorian government spectacularly
failed to uphold its own charter just two years
after it was passed."
He also reminded the audience that this was also
in breach of the International Covenant for Civil
and Political Rights which has the right to this
freedom as one that is non-derogable that cannot be
waived even in national emergencies, thus showing
how significant freedom of conscience is.
"Likewise the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights of 1948, formulated to ensure that the
atrocities and beliefs of those preceding horrific
years would never be repeated also states this
right. How can it be that we dismiss these warnings
so readily and discard the lessons of history?
"It is one thing to pass a law that permits evil
but it is something more to pass a law that compels
evil. The government of Victoria remains condemned
and its people on the whole do not understand what
their government has done. It introduced a charter
that excluded abortion and child destruction with
flagrant disregard of the international charters and
then failed to apply what was good in the charter to
liberty of conscience."
A previous speaker had commented on the
Australian government's quick reaction regarding the
inhumane slaughter of cattle in Indonesia and that
it was a pity that the government would not also
react with respect to abortion.
Dr. Dunjey commented: "Our animal activist
friends get really upset when they see a dolphin or
whale fetus cut from its mother and rightly so. Yet
these are frequently intact and have not been
shredded or pulled apart (as the baby is). How can
it be that our society is so schizophrenic that we
get upset about dolphin (or cattle) slaughter yet
rabidly defend our right to kill our unborn babies?
How can this be?
"It may be that this battle too may be won with
word pictures and visual images and a new generation
will thank us and wonder why the truth was withheld
for so long."
He also highlighted the that infringement of
conscience was also significant with respect to
routine pre-natal diagnosis of abnormality with
implied subsequent abortion, unrestricted euthanasia
and physician assisted suicide - even for the
non-dying and the "troubled teen" as Dr. Nitschke
has suggested - and the connection of all these
matters with respect to truly informed consent.
The 9th Annual "Spirituality and Medicine"
conference will be held next year near the end of
May in Nairobi, Kenya.
For more information about the World Christian
Doctors Network (WCDN), please go to: