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Protection of Conscience Project

Service, not Servitude
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July-September, 2006


26 September, 2006
Survey indicates opposition to freedom of conscience in Illinois

59% of registered Illinois voters polled by Copley News Service believe that pharmacists should be denied freedom of conscience and forced to dispense the morning after pill. 27% supported freedom of conscience and 14% were undecided. Objecting Illinois pharmacists are supposed to be protected by the state's Health Care Right of Conscience Act, but the state's governor has directly attacked their legislated freedom with an 'emergency order' that has led to dismissal of some objectors and lawsuits [See Suit against Illinois governor to proceed]. [Copley News Service]

Chilean court approves 'morning after pill'

The Santiago Appeals Court has reversed an earlier decision to suspend distribution of the 'morning after pill' pending the resolution of a suit brought against the health Ministry of Chile. The drug will now be provided free to any woman over 14 years old, without the consent of parents normally required for minors. The distribution of the drug is highly controversial because of its potential to cause the death of an early embryo and because of the decision to exclude parents from the care of their own children.

25 September, 2006
UK authorities unwilling to prosecute for assisted suicide
A decision by the Crown Prosecution Service and comments by a senior police official suggest that authorities in the United Kingdom are increasingly unwilling to enforce the law against assisted suicide. South Wales Police began an investigation of family members involved in the suicide of a 47 year old man who died from lethal injection at a Dignitas facility in Switzerland in May, 2006. Police were advised by the Crown Prosecution Service to cease the investigation on grounds of "public interest." The Detective Chief Inspector responsible for the investigation commented that he was "profoundly moved" by his experience with the family of the deceased and supported the Crown's decision. Statements by the deceased's father suggest that the case will be used as part of the campaign to legalize assisted suicide in the United Kingdom. [BBC] In the absence of robust protection of conscience legislation, such a development would likely have adverse consequences for health care workers unwilling to participate in the procedure.
Italian president calls for euthanasia debate

In a letter to 60 year old Piergiorgio Welby, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano expressed sympathy for his situation and stated that Italian parliamentarians should debate the legalization of euthanasia. Welby, who suffers from advanced muscular dystrophy, had written an open letter to the president seeking access to euthanasia or assisted suicide that is available to "the Swiss, Belgians and Dutch." The exchange has provoked public controversy that reflects the potential for conflicts of conscience among health care workers if the procedure were legalized. [Life in Italy]

21 September, 2006
Assisted suicide sought for depressed

Ludwig Minelli, founder of the Dignitas assisted suicide facility in Zurich, anticipates that a case to be heard by the Swiss supreme court will result in a ruling that will allow assisted suicide for the severely depressed. Minelli made the prediction while speaking n England. 54 people from the United Kingdom havc travelled to Switzerland to commit suicide from the UK, and a 55th is scheduled to die next week. [The Telegraph]

17 September, 2006
Britons travel to Switzerland for suicide

The fact that British citizens continue to travel to Switzerland to commit suicide in Dignitas assisted suicide facilities is being cited as reason to legalize the procedure in the United Kingdom. A pro-euthanasia group reported that four people travelled from Britain to Switzerland for suicide in the past six weeks. [Scotland on Sunday,17 September, 2004 ]

14 September, 2006
Ethicist supports infanticide

Peter Singer of Princeton University believes that infanticide can be ethically justified for the same reasons that abortion can be ethically justified. He does not see that any relevant ethical distinction can be made between a fetus and full term infant, and would give parents the power to kill disabled newborns "if that was in the best interests of the baby and of the family as a whole." [BP News] The interview did not address the question of whether or not parents should be able to compel ojbectors to fulfil their wishes.

13 September, 2006
Canadian Catholic hospital attacked for ending tubal ligations

Consistent with Catholic teaching on the subject, St. Elizabeth's Catholic hospital in Humboldt, Saskatchewan has permanently banned contraceptive sterilization. The ban followed a unanimous decision by the governing board after it had obtained legal advice. Sterilization can be obtained at Saskatoon's City Hospital, about an hour's drive from the town. Monica Beavis, president of the Saskatchewan Catholic Health Corporation, (SCHC), explained that the hospital had a mandate from the founding Sisters of St. Elizabeth "to provide health care according to the Catholic teaching." Protests against this exercise of religious freedom were quick to materialize. According to a local radio programme, Dr. Daniel Kirchgesner claimed that sterilization was an "inherent right for women." Dr. Carrie Levick-Brown, expressing "shock and disbelief," has started a petition to have the ban overturned.

8 September, 2006
Suit against Illinois Governor to proceed

An Illinois judge has refused to dismiss a suit brought by seven pharmacists against Governor Rod Blagojevich's 'emergency' order requiring them to dispense the morning after pill in spite of their conscientious convictions. The plaintiffs include five pharmacists who were dismissed by Walgreens, a large pharmacy chain. [Belleville News Democrat] [ACLJ news release]

6 September, 2006
Euthanasia suggested for prison "lifers"

In England, former convict and editor of the Prisons Handbook, Mark Leech, has suggested that prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment should be offered the option of euthanasia. Leech did not consider the implications that such a policy would have for conscientious objectors to the procedure. [Daily Mirror]

5 September, 2006
New Jersey Assemblyman declines to support general protection for conscientious objectors

Assemblyman Sean Kean is unwilling to support Bill A2016 because he believes that the protection it offers to health care profession is too broad. He would prefer a bill that focuses on freedom of conscience for pharmacists. [Cherry Hill Courier Post]

30 August, 2006
Washington State governor limits freedom for pharmacists

Governor Christine Gregoire of the state of Washington would permit conscientious objection by pharmacists only if another pharmacist in the store were available to fill the prescription. In the absence of a willing pharmacist, she would compel objectors to dispense controversial drugs. The proposal is supported by the state pharmacy association and abortion advocates. In July, efforts by the state's pharmacy board to ensure freedom of conscience for pharmacists were met by threats from the governor that it would be overruled by the legislature, and she would dismiss board members who supported conscientious objection. []

28 August, 2006
Colombian congress considers regulation of euthanasia

Since 1997, when Colombia's High Court decriminalized euthanasia in cases of terminal illness, the practice of euthanasia has been unregulated. Senator Armando Benedetti, of the Social Party of National Unity has proposed a bill to regulate the procedure. An English language news article reports that the bill states that "the attending physician. . . shall administer euthanasia." This wording would impose a legal duty upon physicians to practise euthanasia, which would cause significant conflicts of conscience among many practitioners. [Catholic News Agency]

British GP advocates euthanasia

Dr Colin Lennon of Wiltshire, England, has written in the Western Mail newspaper to support Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill. Joffe intends to reintroduce the bill in the House of Lords. [Western Mail, 28 August, 2006]

23 August, 2006
Yale School of Medicine exempts ob/gyn objectors

Second year ob/gyn residents at Yale School of Medicine must complete two four-week rotations with Planned Parenthood Connecticut that includes training in abortion techniques and other "family planning" services. However, residents who provide written notice that they object to abortion for reasons of conscience are not required to participate in the procedures.

False claims exposed in abortion case in Argentina

An injunction has been issued by a federal court in Mendoza to stop the scheduled abortion of a mentally disabled woman whose lawyers had claimed she was 12 weeks pregnant with a child conceived by rape. Evidence was presented that the woman's clinical history demonstrated that she was actually in the 20th week of pregnancy. The case illustrates the problem that can arise when judicial decisions are based on false or misleading medical claims. This is particularly true of decisions that set legal precedents.

14 August, 2006
Euthanasia pact made public

Ms. Jenni Murray of the BBC Radio programme Woman's Hour has made public an agreement with two other women to the effect that if any one of them becomes incapacitated, the others will kill them. Murray is reported to be angry that women are "being trapped into caring for dependent parents." [The Telegraph, 14 August, 2006] While the private arrangement does not make demands upon conscientious objectors, it is likely that the announcement will increase demands for legalization of physician assisted suicide and euthanasia in the United Kingdom. Legalization of the procedures would cause problems for objectors in health care.

9 August, 2006
Rate of euthanasia in Belgium estimated at over 30 per month
Stocks of Pentothal, the lethal drug used for euthanasia in Belgium, were temporarily exhausted as a result of administrative and supply problems following the transfer of a licence for its production. 4,000 bottles of the drug were to be released to alleviate the shortage. Expatica reported that 30 official cases of euthanasia occur each month, but the actual rate may be double that. What is of interest in the report was the concern expressed by a palliative care professor about the unavailability of the drug. Outside Belgium, palliative care is not associated with euthanasia. However, the legalization of euthanasia has led to the incorporation of the procedure into palliative care. This can lead to conflicts of conscience among health care workers opposed to the procedure. [Expatica]
Death by dehydration controversy in United Kingdom
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled against Leslie Burke, a 46 year old Lancaster man, who sought a judgement that would prevent doctors from withdrawing nutrition and hydration from him against his will. The court ruled that British law affords adequate protection against premature withdrawal of food and fluids, a finding that is not undisputed. At present, a coroner in Norwich is investigating a complaint that a woman was dehydrated to death in a Norfolk hospital. Physician David Maisey testified at the inquest that he saw people die of dehydration "all the time -- two or three times a week". [The Times, 8 August] Now Kate Speed, the widow of a man who died on the same ward, is alleging that her husband also died as a result of dehydration ordered by the hospital. The hospital insists that he was not dehydrated at the time of death, and that he died of natural causes. [See British ethicist calls for regulation of involuntary euthanasia]
Creation of chimeras in UK condemned

A report by the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics reveals that fertilisation of animal eggs with human sperm is taking place in the United Kingdom. The Council has called for a ban on the practice and asked parliament to prohibit the creation of human-animal hybrids. [SCHB Report]

4 August, 2006
Embryos for sale

Embryos will be conceived to order at an embryo bank in Texas. For about ₤5,000, purchasers will be able to select eye and hair colour of embryos conceived using sperm and eggs from donors who have never met. [The Daily Mail, 4 August, 2006] The plan illustrates the range of possibilities made available in artificial reproductive technology as well as the potential for conflicts of conscience in the field.

2 August, 2006
Argentinean doctors refuse to perform abortion approved by court
Although the Supreme Court of Justice for Buenos Aires approved an abortion for a disable woman who was said to have been raped, the ethics committee at St. Martin's hospital decided against the procedure because the pregnancy, at twenty weeks, was believed to be too advanced. The case highlights the conflict that can arise when judicial decisions impose expectations upon the medical community that conflict with the conscientious convictions of its members.


29 July, 2006
Journalist 'made' the news, charged

Having caused a police investigation as a result of writing a column in which she confessed to euthanasia, Maureen Messent has been charged for the offence of 'wasting police time.' Police concluded that her great aunt had died from natural causes, not from a fatal overdose of morphine given by Messent. The case is part of the continuing campaign for euthanasia in the United Kingdom. [Timesonline, 29 July 2006]

27 July, 2006
Euthanasia campaign continues in the UK

A British man has described how he helped his wife to kill herself at a Swiss clinic. Derek Buckley, 72, took his wife Alayne, 61, who suffered from motor neurone disease, to the Dignitas clinic in Zurich where she was injected with a lethal dose of barbiturates. Mr Buckley, who is now a campaigner for assisted suicide in Britain, said, "I have no doubt euthanasia is being practised in this country and if it were made legal it would be more controlled." Police have decided not to investigate Mrs Buckley's death. [Daily Mail, 27 July, 2006]

25 July, 2006
91 year old alleged to have been deliberately starved to death

An inquest into the death of a 91 year old woman at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital has been adjourned. Her family alleges that the woman was deliberately starved and dehydrated to death in 2003, in contravention of a court order. The deceased's daughter stated that her mother had begged for something to eat and drink. [The Times,25 July, 2006] The facts alleged illustrate circumstances that could easily give rise to conflicts of conscience among health care workers, particularly those expected to carry out orders given by superiors.

24 July, 2006
Abortions begin in Colombia

Abortions have begun in Colombia following a decision by the Colombian Constitutional Court to remove penalties for performing abortion in the case of rape, incest, foetal deformity inconsistent with life, and to preserve the life and health of the mother. It is not clear what impact this will have on conscientious objectors in health care, since the procedure has not been officially legalized. [LifeSite, 24 July, 2006]

18 July, 2006
Wrongful birth, wrongful life suits disallowed in Italy

In contrast to a number of other jurisdictions, Italy's Cassation Court has precluded "wrongful birth" and "wrongful life" suits by ruling that there is no "right not to be born." Thus, parents cannot sue doctors who fail to recommend or facilitate the abortion of a disabled child. and that in response to parents attempting to sue doctors who fail to recommend abortion when the child is likely to be disabled. [LifeSiteNews, 19 July, 2006]

18 July, 2006
Compulsory referral demanded by Oregon Board of Pharmacy

The Northwest Women's Law Center, acting for Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-choice Oregon, has succeeded in limiting freedom of choice for pharmacists who object to dispensing the morning after pill for reasons of conscience. The Center convinced the Oregon Board of Pharmacy to compel objectors to refer patients for drugs to which they object. The Board was quoted as saying that "pharmacists have a choice whether or not to participate in activities they find morally or ethically objectionable," despite the fact that its ruling does precisely that with respect to those who find referral morally or ethically objectionable.[CNS, 18 July, 2006]

17 July, 2006
Psychology professor advocates creation of chimeras

In a column that is a classic illustration of an expert in one field talking nonsense in another, psychology Professor David P. Barash of the University of Washington claims that DNA evidence that man and chimpanzees share a common ancestor means that humans once copulated with monkeys. Barash then celebrates the possibility that current technology will allow the production of animal-human hybrids, because the production of chimeras would, in his view, provide a dose of "biological reality" for fundamentalist know-nothings. Barash's column illustrates the pseudo-scientific superiority that many prominent academics claim, as well as the contempt they frequently display towards religious believers [When Man Mated Monkey]

15 July, 2006
Morning-after pill offered in advance

A website in the United Kingdom, DrThom, will offer the morning-after pill to women in advance of need. The service demonstrates that imagination and will can provide means of distributing the drug without the need to coerce conscientious objectors. [The Daily Telegraph, 15 July, 2006]

14 July, 2006
Austrian doctor sued for birth of disable child

The Salzburg Provincial Court has been ordered by the Austrian Supreme Court to hear the case of a w31 year old oman who is suing a doctor, alleging that she was unable to abort her daughter, now nine years old, because he did not give her sufficient details about the risk of the child having Down's syndrome. If the court finds against the doctor he may be forced to support the child for the rest of her life. This kind of suit can bring pressure to bear on health care workers who object to eugenic screening.

13 July, 2006
Children don't need fathers

British Health Minister Carolyn Flint plans to eliminate a legal requirement that in vitro fertilization be restricted to families with fathers in order to make IVF available to lesbians and single women. [The Telegraph, 13 July, 2006] Meanwhile, British MP Dr Evan Harris is leading an effort to compel fertility clinics to provide treatment to single women and lesbians. [The Guardian 3 July, 2006] [Ananova 3 July, 2006] [The Scotsman 3 July, 2006]. Both developments suggest the potential for conflicts of conscience among those who do not accept the government's ideas about child-rearing.hing but "medical" reasons.
Australian group wants world-wide one-child policy

Despite the experience of extreme coercive measures taken in China to enforce a one-child policy, Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) wants a one-child policy to be imposed in all nations. worldwide. SPA President Ian Macindoe compared the earth and its human population with a sheep station being overgrazed by too many animals. [ABC News, 11 July, 2006]

6 July, 2006
European Court decision notifies Irish judiciary of expectation to expand Irish abortion law
A woman has lost a civil action against the Irish government in the European Court of Human Rights. She aborted a surviving twin at about 24 weeks gestation in England after the first twin died in utero and the survivor was diagnosed with a severe genetic disorder, Trisomy 18 (Edward's Syndrome). She sued the Irish government, claiming that Irish law denied her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights by restricting her access to abortion. Abortion is legal under Irish law only if there is "real and substantial risk to the life of the mother." The European court decided that she had not made sufficient effort to obtain an abortion in Ireland before going to the UK. It also held that the law in Ireland was flexible enough to have permitted her to obtain an abortion there in her circumstances. In effect, it appears that the Court was of the view that the Irish judiciary could have made a ruling equivalent to Roe vs. Wade in the United States, at least with respect to abortions for eugenic purposes. The news release from the court strongly suggests that the failure of the Irish judiciary to order an abortion would have resulted in a successful appeal to a European tribunal. A change in the Irish abortion law, whether imposed by judicial fiat or enacted by statute, would have a significant impact on the medical profession, since most obstetricians object to abortion for reasons of conscience. This is particularly so with respect to eugenic abortions, which are usually performed at fairly advanced stages of pregnancy. [News release from the Registrar, European Court of Human Rights]