Conscientious objection: Can a hospital refuse to provide treatment?

Baylor College of Medicine

Claire Horner

Canada recently legalized medical assistance in dying (MAiD), which allows patients to receive a lethal drug that they can self-administer, or be administered a lethal drug by an authorized clinician with consent of the patient. As provinces and territories work to create and clarify legal guidelines for providing MAiD, many Catholic hospitals have refused to offer it, citing opposition to physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia in Catholic moral teaching.

This controversy surrounding institutional conscience-based refusals raises an important question: Should a health care institution have the right to refuse to provide a particular treatment for conscience-based reasons? . . . [Full text]

One thought on “Conscientious objection: Can a hospital refuse to provide treatment?”

  1. A generally thoughtful article, but one point requires a response.

    That “[I]n most cases of conscientious objection, health care providers are professionally obligated to refer patients to other providers” is unsupported and contestable, and does not reflect the position of the American Medical Association, nor that of the Canadian Medical Association.

    Certainly, there has been increasing pressure to compel health care providers to do this over the last two decades, notably with respect to abortion and contraception. It has become apparent that this campaign has been a dress rehearsal for compulsion to refer for euthanasia and assisted suicide.

    In fact, some Canadian academics now assert that referral is not sufficient, and that physicians must personally provide all morally contested services, even if that means they must personally kill eligible patients or help them commit suicide. (See Schuklenk U. “Conscientious objection in medicine: private ideological convictions must not supercede public service obligations” (2015) 29:5 Bioethics ii, DOI:10.1111/bioe.12167; Schuklenk U,Smalling R. “Why medical professionals have no claim to conscientious objection accommodation in liberal democracies” (2016) 43:4 J Med Ethics 234, DOI:; Attaran A. “The Limits of Conscientious and Religious Objection to Physician-Assisted Dying after the Supreme Court’s Decision in Carter v Canada” (2016 ) 36:3 Health L Can 86 at 96)

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