The US case brings to light concerns around conscientious objection at a time when a federal religious discrimination bill is being debated in Australia
A woman has filed a lawsuit against a Thrifty White Pharmacy and a CVS Pharmacy in Minnesota in the US, alleging the two pharmacies illegally kept her from accessing emergency contraception.
Andrea Anderson, a 39-year-old mother of five, says she asked the pharmacist at her drugstore in Minnesota more than once why he couldn’t fill her prescription for emergency contraception, according to the Star Tribune.
“I then realised what was happening: he was refusing to fill my prescription for emergency contraception because he did not believe in it,” Ms Anderson said on Tuesday. . . [Full text]
Critics of transgender treatment for children have been making heavy weather of persuading people that it could be medically dangerous. However, a well-documented feature in The Australian warns that transgender doctors could face class action suits if they continue to ignore research which claims that children are being harmed. . . [Full text]
A Clash of Organizational and Individual Conscience
The 2016 Colorado End-of-Life Options Act includes a provision unique among states with such laws, specifically privileging individual health care professionals, including physicians and pharmacists, to choose whether to write and fill prescriptions for life-ending medications, such as high-dose secobarbital or various combinations of morphine, diazepam, beta-blockers, and digoxin, without regard to the position their employer has taken on the law. This provision virtually guaranteed the Colorado law would eventually be challenged, which happened in August 2019.1 The current legal case directly pits the conscience rights of individual health care professionals against those of religiously affiliated corporations. Because 5 of the top 10 US hospital systems by net revenue are now religiously affiliated,2 and these systems often restrict medical care in a variety of ways,3 how the case is resolved could have far-reaching implications for US health care, extending well beyond the relatively rare use of aid-in-dying medications at the end of life.
Wynia M. Colorado End-of-Life Options Act: A Clash of Organizational and Individual Conscience. JAMA. 2019;322(20):1953-1954. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.16438
Mike O’Connor, Bill Madden
The Family Court of Australia has stepped back from a previously perceived need for involvement in the approval of stage 1 and stage 2 treatments, for children requiring gender transformation. At present those children and their families who are in agreement need not seek authorisation of the Family Court to undertake either Stage 1 (pubarche blockade with gonadotrophin-releasing hormone agonists) or Stage 2 treatment (cross-hormone therapy such as oestrogen for transgender males). Stage 1 treatment to suppress pubarche would nowadays be commenced at Tanner stage 2 which commences as early as 9.96 years in girls and 10.14 years in boys. Suppression of puberty continues until the age of 16 years when cross hormonal treatment commences. This article questions the assertion that suppression of puberty by GnRH analogues either in cases of precocious puberty or gender dysphoria is “safe and reversible” and argues that it warrants ongoing caution, despite the Family Court having broadly accepted that assertion.
O’Connor M, Madden B. In the Footsteps of Teiresias: Treatment for Gender Dysphoria in Children and the Role of the Courts. J Law Med. 2019 Oct;27(1):149-163.
Religious considerations and language do not typically belong in the professional advice rendered by a doctor to a patient. Among the rationales mounted by Greenblum and Hubbard in support of that conclusion is that religious considerations and language are incompatible with the role of doctors as public officials.1 Much as I agree with their conclusion, I take issue with this particular aspect of their analysis. It seems based on a mischaracterisation of what societal role doctors fulfil, qua doctors. What obliges doctors to communicate by means of content that is expressed in public reason-based language is not that they are public officials. Doctors as doctors are not necessarily public officials. Rather, doctors have such obligations, because they are professionals. Unlike public officials doctors are part of a profession that is to a significant extent self-governing. This holds true for all professions. The …
Responding to religious patients: why physicians have no business doing theology. Jake Greenblum Ryan K Hubbard Journal of Medical Ethics 2019; – Published Online First: 20 Jun 2019. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2019-105452
Schuklenk U. Professionalism eliminates religion as a proper tool for doctors rendering advice to patients. J Medical Ethics. 2019 Sep 12. pii: medethics-2019-105703. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2019-105703. [Epub ahead of print]
This paper challenges the leading common morality accounts of medical ethics which hold that medical ethics is nothing but the ethics of everyday life applied to today’s high-tech medicine. Using illustrative examples, the paper shows that neither the Beauchamp and Childress four-principle account of medical ethics nor the Gert et al 10-rule version is an adequate and appropriate guide for physicians’ actions. By demonstrating that medical ethics is distinctly different from the ethics of everyday life and cannot be derived from it, the paper argues that medical professionals need a touchstone other than common morality for guiding their professional decisions. That conclusion implies that a new theory of medical ethics is needed to replace common morality as the standard for understanding how medical professionals should behave and what medical professionalism entails. En route to making this argument, the paper addresses fundamental issues that require clarification: what is a profession? how is a profession different from a role? how is medical ethics related to medical professionalism? The paper concludes with a preliminary sketch for a theory of medical ethics.
Rhodes R. Why not common morality? J Med Ethics 2019;0:1–8. Published Online First: 11 September 2019. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2019-105621
Edited by Kevin Vallier and Michael Weber, New York, NY, Oxford University Press, 2018, 328 pp., £61 (hardback), ISBN: 9780190666187
Lang J. Book Review: Religious exemptions. New Bioethics 2019 Sep; 25(3): 290-292, DOI:10.1080/20502877.2019.1649867
Edited by Susanna Mancini and Michel Rosenfeld. Pp. 493. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2018. £76. ISBN: 978-1107173309>
Cowley C. Book Review: The Conscience Wars; Rethinking the Balance between Religion, Identity, and Equality. New Bioethics. 2019 Sep; 25(3): 286-289, DOI:10.1080/20502877.2019.1647039
Nathan K. Gamble, Michal Pruski
A key question has been underexplored in the literature on conscientious objection: if a physician is required to perform ‘medical activities,’ what is a medical activity? This paper explores the question by employing a teleological evaluation of medicine and examining the analogy of military conscripts, commonly cited in the conscientious objection debate. It argues that physicians (and other healthcare professionals) can only be expected to perform and support medical acts – acts directed towards their patients’ health. That is, physicians cannot be forced to provide or support services that are not medical in nature, even if such activities support other socially desirable pursuits. This does not necessarily mean that medical professionals cannot or should not provide non-medical services, but only that they are under no obligation to provide them.
Gamble NK, Pruski M. Medical Acts and Conscientious Objection: What Can a Physician be Compelled to Do? New Bioethics 2019 Sep; 25(3): 262-282. DOI:10.1080/20502877.2019.1649871
Toni C. Saad
This paper argues that healthcare aims at the good of health, that this pursuit of the good necessitates conscience, and that conscience is required in every practical judgement, including clinical judgment. Conscientious objection in healthcare is usually restricted to a handful of controversial ends (e.g. abortion, euthanasia, contraception), yet the necessity of conscience in all clinical judgements implies the possibility of conscientious objection to means. The distinction between conscientious objection to means and ends is explored and its implications considered. Based on this, it is suggested that conscientious objection, whether to means or ends, occurs when a proposed course of action comes into irreconcilable conflict with the moral principle ‘do no harm’. It is, therefore, concluded that conscientious objection in healthcare can be conceived as a requirement of the moral imperative to do no harm, the right to refuse to harm in regard to health.
Saad TC. Conscientious Objection and Clinical Judgement: The Right to Refuse to Harm. New Bioethics. 2019 Sep; 25(3): 248-261 DOI:10.1080/20502877.2019.1649863