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Protection of Conscience Project

Service, not Servitude
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July-September, 2007


29 September, 2007
British medical authorities disagree on freedom of conscience

The British Medical Association is reported to be critical of the country's regulatory authority, the General Medical Council, because it claims that draft GMC guidelines acknowledging the need to respect freedom of conscience and religion among physicians are ambiguous and could lead to refusal of some services, such as IVF treatments for same-sex couples. [The Independent]

Irish women said to favour abortion

A report in the Irish Times claims that between 54% and 70% of Irish women favour legalization of abortion in various circumstances. 42% were reported to know someone who had had an abortion. [Irish Times] Legalization of the procedure would likely cause conflicts of conscience among many in the medical profession, especially obstetricians and gynecologists.

28 September, 2007
UK pharmacist challenged on freedom of conscience

A pharmacist at Lloyds Pharmacy in Slaithwaite, England, who refused to dispense the morning after pill for reasons of conscience was apparently confronted by a demanding customer and what was described as a "heated discussion" ensued. The pharmacist told an enquiring reporter that he had directed the woman "to the nearest chemist who would give it," thus conforming to a regulation that requires objectors to facilitate the supply of products by referring patients. It does not appear that the pharmacist believed that referral compromised his personal integrity. [Huddersfield Daily Examiner]
27 September, 2007
Austrian court rejects person status for chimpanzee

An animal rights group will appeal lower court decisions to the Austrian Supreme Court, seeking a ruling that a chimpanzee is a person. The case involves one of two chimpanzees living in a now bankrupt animal shelter. The activists claim that they do not want the animals shipped out of Austria because of concern that they will not be adequately protected by laws in other countries, and they are unwilling to establish a fund from which to pay for the upkeep of the animals. A district court rejected a petition by a woman to assume legal guardianship of one of the chimps because the animal was not mentally impaired or in danger. The provincial court has now rejected the suit on the grounds that the activists have no standing, since only a guardian can appeal. The case is of interest because a declaration that a chimpanzee is a person would require a definition of 'person' that is not unique to human beings, setting legal criteria for the definition that could then be applied selectively to human beings. Ethicist Peter Singer of Princeton University takes this approach, and concludes that, based upon his criteria for 'personhood', infanticide is acceptable. [Associated Press]

Connecticut Catholic bishops conditionally approve morning after pill

Responding to a state law requiring hospitals to provide the morning after pill to complainants of rape, the Catholic bishops of Connecticut have issued a statement approving the use of the drug after a negative pregnancy test, though continuing to maintain that the law is unsatisfactory. The statement asserts that the Catholic Church has not definitively ruled on the use of the morning after pill and that its mechanism of action is in "serious doubt," so a negative ovulation test will not be required. The statement closed with the note that the matter would have to be re-opened if the morning-after pill were shown to sometimes lead to "early chemical abortion."

25 September, 2007
Slovakian government rescinds law forcing hospitals to provide abortions

Following an intensive publicity campaign by a Slovakian anti-abortion group, which included graphic depictions of the abortion of an eleven-week old foetus, the Slovakian Health Ministry has withdrawn a regulation that forced all hospitals to provide abortion. [Lifesite News]

24 September, 2007
Muslim physicians in UK reject law requiring starvation of patients

Britain's Mental Capacity Act, which comes into force this year, requires health care workers to withhold food and fluids in order to cause the death of a patient who is not dying, if that is requested by the patient or legal proxy. Those who fail to comply with the requests will not be supported by the British Medical Association, and may be charged for assault and imprisoned. Nonetheless, the Islamic Medical Association has stated, "All Muslim doctors, nurses and patients, expressing our Islamic beliefs, should oppose this inhumane Act." Opposition has also come from the Catholic Church. [The Daily Mail]

20 September, 2007
Catholic hospital taken over by state health care authority

The Saskatoon Regional Health Authority will formally take control of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, on 31 October. Health Minister Len Taylor decided that the local government health authority would take over the hospital because of a controversy that erupted when the hospital stopped providing tubal ligations, which are contrary to Catholic moral teaching. The hospital will be called the Humboldt District Hospital. [Star Phoenix] [See Former Catholic hospital being re-named]

13 September, 2007
Pope encourages Slovakian concordat on freedom of conscience

Pope Benedict XVI referred hopefully to Slovakia's assurance that it will finalize an accord with the Holy See that will preserve freedom of conscience in the country by officially recognizing a right of conscientious objection. The remarks were made as he accepted the credentials of the new Slovakian ambassador. The proposed agreement generated enough controversy in the country to lead to an election last year, and it has been criticized by European Union experts. [EU Business]

8 September, 2007
Washington pharmacy harassed by activists

Activists bent on destroying freedom of conscience for Washington pharmacists have filed at least ten new complaints against Ralph's Thriftway Pharmacy in Olympia, Washington. The family owning the store had refused to stock the morning-after pill, and nine women filed complaints about the practice in July. However, the complaints were not upheld because the pharmacy conformed to the custom, then in force, of referring clients to other pharmacies. New rules took effect in July requiring "timely" dispensing of drugs, as a result of which the new complaints have been lodged. The company has filed a lawsuit against the regulations, and activists have organized a boycott of its stores. [The Olympian]

3 September, 2007
Catholic hospital forced to pay damages for refusing tubal ligation

The Saskatchewan Catholic Health Corporation has agreed to pay a woman $7,875.00 in order to settle a complaint lodged with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission. She was denied a tubal ligation at St. Elizabeth's Catholic Hospital in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, and filed a complaint with the Commission alleging that she was deprived of a public service as a result of discrimination on the basis of gender and religion. The incident followed a decision by the hospital board to cease providing tubal ligations in order to conform to Catholic teaching. Critics asserted that Catholic hospitals have no right to freedom of religion in the provision of healthcare because they are part of the public health care system. As a result of the controversy, the hospital board decided to end the hospital's affiliation with the Catholic Church and transfer control of the facility to the public health care authority. [CBC News]


30 August, 2007
Sources indicate Swedish aid cut meant to force abortion in Latin America

Sweden has cut off aid to Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Peru for reasons related to "peace, security, democracy, and human rights", according to the Swedish ambassador to El Salvador. Anonymous sources are reported to have explained this as an attempt to force the countries to legalize abortion. Nicaragua will lose about 21 million dollars in aid. Legalization of abortion, without providing substantial protection of conscience legislation, would likely have a significant impact on objecting health care workers.

23 August, 2007
US Bishops spokeswoman defends freedom of conscience

Deirdre McQuade, planning director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, is reported by Fox News to be concerned about freedom of conscience for pharmacy employees who object to dispensing the morning after pill. "Pregnancy is not a disease," McQuade said. "There is no absolute duty to dispense a non-therapeutic drug, but there is a basic civil right of conscience." [Fox News]

17 August, 2007
Hearings on abortion in South Africa

As a result of a ruling by the Constitutional Court of South Africa, public hearings are being held into the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Act. Doctors for Life International opposes the bill not only because the group is opposed to abortion, but because the bill does not include protection of conscience measures to ensure that nurses unwilling to participate in abortion do not lose their jobs. [LifeNews]

3 August, 2007
Objecting Illinois pharmacists can proceed against Wal Mart

A ruling byIllinois District Court Judge Jeanne Scott [Vandersand vs. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.] means that pharmacist Ethan Vandersand can proceed with his case against Wal-Mart for placing him on unpaid leave because he refused, for reasons of conscience, to dispense the morning after pill. The judge ruled that individual pharmacists are protected by the state's Health Care Right of Conscience Act, and that an executive order from the Governor binds pharmacy owners, but not individual pharmacists. [ACLJ news release]

2 August, 2007
Freedom of conscience for UK pharmacists restricted

Another British woman has publicly complained about being denied the morning-after pill by an objecting pharmacist. The incident occurred at a Lloyds' pharmacy in Hednesford, Staffordshire, England. A spokesman for the regulatory authority stated that objectors are required to refer customers to colleagues to help them obtain the drug. Referral is unacceptable to a number of objectors. A parliamentary committee studying the issue of assisted suicide and euthanasia has asserted that it is contrary to human rights law to compel physicians to refer for procedures to which they object for reasons of conscience. For some reason, the authority fails to recognize that this applies to pharmacists as well.

1 August, 2007
Catholic Church states that artificial nutrition and hydration are obligatory

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued a statement answering questions from the bishops of the United States. The statement, Responses to Certain Questions of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Concerning Artificial Nutrition and Hydration, affirms that food and fluids must be provided to patients as long as they are able to assimilate them. Courts in many jurisdictions have ruled that assisted nutrition and hydration are forms of medical treatment that can be rejected by or on behalf of patients. This has led to the practice of stopping food and fluids in order to bring about the death of patients who are not otherwise dying. In Britain, the Mental Capacity Act has given statutory effect to this procedure. The practice can create conflicts of conscience for health care workers opposed to euthanasia.


31 July, 2007
Private abortion clinic in Portugal affords access to procedure

Many Portuguese doctors are reported to be unwilling to provide abortions under the terms of a new law, and a number of public hospitals are unable to offer the service for that reason. The opening of Portugal's first private abortion clinic illustrates a simple method of accommodating both demands for the procedure and freedom of conscience for health care workers unwilling to provide or facilitate it. [Los Angeles Times 31 July]

Transplant surgeon charged in death of patient

Dr. Hootan Roozrokh, a California transplant surgeon who is a respondent in a wrongful death suit (See Wrongful death claim made in organ transplant case), has been criminally charged. Dr. Roozrokh was employed by Kaiser Permanente's kidney transplant program. as working at the time on behalf of a group that procures and distributes organs. The prosecution alleges that the drugs he prescribed were intended "to accelerate Mr. Navarro's death in order to recover his organs." [ABC News] The case illustrates the potential for conflicts of conscience among health care workers involved in removing organs for transplant.

30 July, 2007
Amnesty International to begin pro-abortion activity

Ms Kate Gilmore, deputy secretary-general of Amnesty International, has stated that the organization will officially begin pro-abortion activism on 11 August in Mexico City. Conscientious objectors to abortion are particularly threatened by attempts by Amnesty and others to make abortion is a human right, since that would effectively preclude conscientious objection to the procedure by health care professionals. [EWTN 30 July]

26 July, 2007
Pharmacists suing Washington state

Pharmacists Rhonda Mesler and Margo Thelen and a company, Stormans Inc., have begun a civil action against Washington state because a new law requires them to sell the morning-after pill, contrary to their religious and moral beliefs. [AP on ABC Money, 26 July] [ADF news release]

Poll suggests support in US for conscientious objection in pharmacy

65%of American respondents to a poll conducted by Baraga Interactive supported freedom of conscience for pharmacists who refuse to dispense products for moral reasons. [CWNews on LifeSite,19 July]

24 July, 2007
$21 million awarded in wrongful birth case

More than $21 million has been awarded by an American jury to a couple because a doctor failed to diagnose a genetic disorder in their firstborn child. They asserted that they would have had an abortion had they known that their second child also suffered from the disorder. In essence, a wrongful birth case claims that a child would be better off dead, or having never been born [Fox News]. Cases of this type result in considerable pressure on physicians to recommend pre-natal testing for the purpose of identifying birth defects in order to facilitate abortion.

18 July, 2007
Portuguese doctors refuse to perform abortions

At least nine regional hospitals in Portugal will not provide abortions because health care professionals at the facilities object to the procedure for reasons of conscience. [CNN, 15 July] Legal access to abortion up to the tenth week of pregnancy was recently expanded in the country, and as many as 80% of Portuguese physicians are reported to be unwilling to be involved with it. A spokesman for the Portuguese Catholic bishops' conference, said: "Catholic nurses and doctors have been encouraged to have recourse to their right to objection of conscience and many have done so. This comes as a surprise to the government. Many hospitals will not be able to perform abortions because so many doctors are having recourse to their right to objection of conscience." [Fides/CWN on EWTN, 18 July]

12 July, 2007
Sex-selective IVF proposed in United Kingdom

In commenting upon the Human Tissue and Embryos Bill, the director of Midland Fertility Services has suggested that patients using in vitro fertilization be allowed to choose the sex of their babies. She argues that this would reduce the number of sex-selective abortions being performed in Britain. Sex selection, either through IVF or abortion, is a controversial issue even among those who otherwise have not objection to those procedures. icBirmingham, 12 July]

Irish Catholic charities opposing abortion threatened with loss of funding

The Irish Crisis Pregnancy Agency is reported to be unwilling to continue funding Catholic pregnancy counselling charities unless they agree to accept pamphlets providing their clients with information about abortion clinics outside Ireland. [Irish Independent, 12 July]

9 July, 2007
Argentine doctors state opposition to abortion

The Buenos Aires Catholic Doctors Consortium (CDC) has stated that its members will not perform abortions and asserted their right to conscientious objection to the procedure, warning politicians, legislators and other authorities that they cannot expect physicians to provide the procedure. [LifeSite News]

6 July, 2007
Wrongful death claim made in organ transplant case

Rosa Navarro has begun civil action against the Sierra Vista Regional Medical and Dr. Hootan Roozrokh, alleging that Dr. Roozrokh was responsible for the administration of lethal doses of morphine to her disabled son, Ruben Navarro. It is alleged that this was done to cause his death so that his organs could be transplanted. The statement of claim asserts that the morphine was administered in an operating room, and appears to suggest the involvement of more than one medical professional. The allegation illustrates the potential for conflicts of conscience arising among team members involved in organ transplants when it is not clear that the patient has died, or when it appears that steps are being taken to accelerate or cause death. [LifeSite News]

5 July, 2007
European politicians call for euthanasia

MEPs from the United Kingdom and Italy have asked for the legalization of euthanasia in Europe. Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies stated that it was a matter of human rights rather than health policy. Legalization of euthanasia would impact objectors among health care workers, especially if euthanasia were to be made an enforceable legal right. [Channel 4, 5 July]

African archbishop criticizes Maputo Protocol

Citing strong African cultural traditions opposed to abortion, Archbishop Robert Sarah of Guinea has objected to the Maputo Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, a document that has formal support of a number of African states and that supports legalization of abortion. [Zenit, 5 July]