UK bill seeks to protect conscientious objection for medical practitioners

Crux

Catholic News Agency

LONDON – A bill in the British Parliament would clarify the rights of conscientious objection for medical professionals, protecting them from participating in medical procedures to which their beliefs are opposed.

The Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Act 2017 would defend healthcare workers in England and Wales from partaking in the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, IVF or similar fertility treatments, or abortion if they have a conscientious objection to doing so.

The bill, now at the committee stage in the House of Lords, was introduced by Baroness Nuala O’Loan, a peer from Northern Ireland, who believes medical professionals should not be discriminated against for their personal beliefs. . . [Full Text]

Conscientious objection is an important medical principle

Doctors are expected to have integrity. Does this not entail that they should do what they think is right?

The Spectator

Toni Saad

Something interesting is happening in the House of Lords. Baroness O’Loan’s Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill, now at the committee stage, has put on the agenda an issue which well-deserves to be there. Its point is simple: all healthcare professionals should have a legal right to opt out of certain procedures which they find objectionable. It specifies three areas: abortion provision, withdrawal of life-saving treatment, and actions relating to certain reproductive technologies.

This is not particularly radical; the 1967 Abortion Act already explicitly protects conscientious objection. Indeed, it could even be asked why this should, in a country with a tradition of liberty like ours, even be up for debate. Do we really need law to protect the right to conscience?

Sadly, it has become clear that we do. Armchair philosophers have been discussing the merits of forcing doctors and nurses to act against their conscience (or lose their jobs) over the last few years. Many papers against conscience have been published. . . [Full Text]

Why we must protect the conscience rights of medical professionals

Is it really such a radical idea to think healthcare professionals should not be forced to help in procedures to which they morally object?

Catholic Herald

Prof. Andrew Tettenborn

Just over three years ago, two devout Catholic midwives lost an important claim in the courts. Disciplined for declining to make arrangements for abortions in a Glasgow maternity ward, they sued, saying that the Abortion Act’s conscience clause allowed them to refuse to participate in the procedure. The Supreme Court, combining an impressive capacity for casuistry with a matching unconcern for moral consistency, chose to define “participation” as meaning carrying out the abortion, and nothing more. Organising, managing and aiding other people to do it was quite different; there was no right to refuse to do it.

The point matters a great deal. Many NHS hospitals now put abortion and other controversial procedures out to tender (a matter itself a cause for concern, though not here), and so organisation rather than participation is increasingly what will be demanded from often unwilling staff. . . [Full Text]

O’Loan submits Bill that would allow medics to refuse to carry out abortions

Baroness Nuala O’Loan has introduced a Parliamentary Bill which, if passed, could allow medical professionals to opt out of providing any abortion services.

Belfast Telegraph

The Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Act 2017 would also excuse medics from participating in the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment.

The Private Member’s Bill would apply to all medical professionals on the registers of the General Medical Council, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the Health and Care Professions Council and the General Pharmaceutical Council in England and Wales.

The Bill states that employers “must not discriminate against or victimise” an employee who conscientiously objects. It has passed its second reading in the House of Lords and will now proceed to the committee stage. . . [Full Text]

It is not right to force medics to act against their beliefs

A bill to cover conscientious objections in medicine would avoid losing valuable members of staff

The Times

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

A fortnight ago Baroness O’Loan’s Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill passed its second reading in the House of Lords. It now heads to committee stage where it will be scrutinised further.

A large campaign backing the bill has argued that it is necessary to legally safeguard the conscience of all medical professionals, many of whom do not currently have clear rights guaranteed in law. The bill marks out three areas where conscience rights would receive explicit protection, namely: the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment; activity under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990; and in the context of abortion.

I spoke in support of the bill during the debate prior to the second reading, where many raised concerns about an “unreasonably broad” ability to conscientiously object to the provision of abortion. As far as I am concerned, there is a very simple analysis of this. . . [Full Text]

‘Pro-life medics must have conscientious objection rights’

The Christian Institute

A Bill designed to afford better protections for medical professionals who conscientiously object to abortion has passed its second reading in the House of Lords.

The Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill has been described as “important and timely”.

It seeks to ensure conscience objection rights for all medics and has now moved on to Committee Stage in the House of Lords. However, since it is a Private Member’s Bill, the Bill is not expected to pass. . . [Full Text]

Conscientious Objection: A Quick(ish) Answer

Journal of Medical Ethics

Mary Neal

The Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) [HL] Bill, introduced by the crossbench peer Baroness O’Loan, received its second reading in the House of Lords on Friday 26th January and successfully proceeded to the committee stage.  In a post on this blog the following day, Iain posed a very reasonable question about clause 1(1)(a) of the Bill.  That clause would allow health professionals to refuse to be involved in “the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment”, and Iain asks how this can be compatible with existing civil and criminal law, under which it is unlawful to fail to withdraw treatment (including life-sustaining treatment) from a competent patient who no longer consents to it, or from a patient who lacks capacity if treatment is no longer in her best interests.

Before responding, I should declare an interest: I’m a spokesperson for the Free Conscience campaign, which supports the Bill.  I endorse the Bill’s premise that healthcare professionals should, in key areas of practice, benefit from statutory conscience rights that are both meaningful and effective. . . [Full Text]

Christian doctors and other medical staff opposing abortion face serious disadvantage, lords told

Press Association

Some doctors and midwives are suffering “serious disadvantage and discrimination” for their beliefs over abortion and other medical activities, peers have been told.

Baroness O’Loan also claimed young healthcare professionals are leaving the UK as they cannot carry out certain tasks, arguing there is a need to “reestablish legal protection” for medical conscientious objections.

The Crossbench peer’s Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill – which is being supported by the Free Conscience campaign – would apply to the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, human embryo research and activity linked to preparing, supporting or performing an abortion.

But her proposal split the Lords, with Labour’s Baroness Young of Old Scone among those voicing their opposition and describing it as “unnecessary and potentially dangerous” given existing protections. . .  [Full Text]