A Global Charter of Conscience has been drafted and published, introduced by the following explanation:
Freedom of conscience underpins many of the other human rights that we all enjoy. This is why the right to express your belief is enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, this freedom is being marginalised.
The Global Charter of Conscience will bring religious tolerance back to the centre of public debate, and it will help future generations engage freely in the public life of their nation.
The Charter has been drafted by people of many faiths and none, politicians of many persuasions, academics and NGOs, all committed to a partnership on behalf of “freedom of thought, conscience and religion” for people of all faiths and none.
Seventh-day Adventist world church President Ted N. C. Wilson, speaking at the 7th World Congress for Religious Freedom in the Dominican Republic, distinguished between “radical” or anti-religious secularism—that would exclude religion from public life—and “secular governance,” which accommodates religious belief, protects the religious freedom rights of minorities but does not favour a particular religious tradition. Radical secularism, he said, must be opposed. At the same time, religious believers must not attempt to establish a “religious state” as an alternative to secular regimes. [Adventist News Network]
The Pharmaceutical Hippocratic Oath has been prepared by Reprieve, an organization in the United Kingdom that works to ensure fair judicial processes around the world. The group places special emphasis on cases involving capital punishment. The oath includes the following statement:
“We dedicate our work to developing and distributing pharmaceuticals to the service of humanity; we will practice our profession with conscience and dignity; the right to health of the patient will be our first consideration; we condemn the use of any of our pharmaceuticals in the execution of human beings.”
Some of the issues associated with the campaign it are relevant to freedom of conscience for health care workers, especially pharmacists. They include the problem of complicity, degrees of participation and the apparent appeal to a de facto corporate conscience.
The UNESCO Chair in Bioethics at the University of Barcelona held a seminar on “Abortion and conscientious objection” in early February. The Chair’s director, Maria Casado, told the press that Spain should establish a national registry of physicians who object to abortion as a method of ensuring access to the procedure. While she claimed to support a right to conscientious objection, she said that “When [it] is transformed into a collective stance for ideological reasons, it turns into civil disobedience.” [ELN]
In a document released by the Pontifical Academy for Life, the mechanism of the morning-after pill is described in detail. The document concludes that “it is clear that in fact the morning-after pill is nothing other than an abortion procured by chemical means,” encourages health care workers to practice “conscientious objection” against the “aggression” aimed at the “human embryo.”
Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union are reported to be trying to make it illegal for health care workers to decline to perform abortions for reasons of conscience. The negotiations at the Beijing +5 conference are said to have broken down when Nicaragua proposed strong language to protect conscientious objectors. If accurate, these reports indicate that the US, Australia and New Zealand are attempting to impose on third world countries policies that are not acceptable in their own, since all three countries have enacted protection of conscience legislation for their own health care workers.