We need to remember the lessons on abortion and conscience before we legalise assisted suicide

Catholic Herald

Francis  Phillips

Cases such as Dr. Chazan’s should make us think twice

On holiday last week I got into conversation with an atheist friend. The subject of abortion came up and whether a doctor or nurse has a right in conscience to refuse to participate in such a “procedure.” I cited the recent case of a prominent Polish Catholic doctor who had refused to perform an abortion. My atheist friend was annoyed. “What do you mean, he refused?” he said. “If it’s the law he has to comply with it.” By way of bolstering his argument he added, “Don’t doctors know that performing abortions is just part of their job?”

I countered this by saying that saving life and healing the sick was intrinsic to practising medicine; performing abortions wasn’t; indeed, the law of 1967 permitting it had run counter to all traditional notions of medicine from the Hippocratic Oath onwards. I added that I had read that many new medical graduates are now refusing to do abortions – not for religious reasons but because it wasn’t what they thought doctoring should be about. I added that this made medicine quite different from e.g. conscientious objection in war: being prepared to kill the enemy was intrinsic to soldiering; if you were a pacifist you would know this, so you would refuse to join up on conscientious grounds. . . [Full text]

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