Growing Intolerance Threatens Rights of Conscience of Health Care Workers

cnsnews.com

Lynn Wardle*

Around the world, policies and actions of many governments and governmental agencies are threatening rights of conscience of health care providers and employees.  These challenges and dangers seem to be increasing.

Recent times have seen numerous high-profile incidents in which nurses, doctors, hospital staff, government employees, and other health care workers are being pressured, required and forced to provide morally-controversial elective procedures (such as non-therapeutic abortions) despite their expressed moral objections to participating in such services. [Full text]

 

Lack of Conscientious Objection Clause for Medical Staff in Sweden

Decision of the European Committee of Social Rights

News Release

European Federation of Catholic Family Associations  (FAFCE)

Contrary to Resolution 1763 adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 10 October 2011, Medical Staff in Sweden have no legal right to conscientious objection in case of ethically sensitive issues which occur particularly at the beginning and the end of life. The European Federation of Catholic Family Associations (FAFCE) which has a participatory status with the Council of Europe submitted a collective complaint against Sweden in 2013 based on the above grounds and the right to health, together with the Swedish organisations Provita and Christian Medical Doctors and Students (KLM). The decision of the European Committee of Social Rights was made public today.

One of the issues addressed in the Collective Complaint against Sweden was freedom of conscience for medical staff. In its response to the Complaint the Swedish Government argued that freedom of conscience should be discussed in the work place and that if the issue can’t be resolved in a satisfactory manner for the employee, it can be brought before Court, based on article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights which is incorporated into the Swedish law and on the grounds of the anti-discrimination law for the individual. The right to freedom of conscience is enshrined in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In its response the Government also notes that contacts have been established with the concerned employers and workers union: none of these could provide examples of situations where freedom of conscience had been problematic. Thus the Government considers that the problem is purely theoretical.

”It is of course very noteworthy that the Government stated that denied freedom of conscience only is a theoretical problem in its response to the European Social Rights Committee. In a recent complaint to the United Nations Swedish by European Centre for Law and Justice, medical staff – four midwifes, three general practioners and two pediatricians – testify of how the negative attitude towards freedom of conscience has limited them and their colleagues in their professional practice”, says Mrs Nordström, CEO or Provita and President of Scandianvian Human Rights Lawyers, and the legal representative of a Swedish midwife, Ellinor Grimmark, in an ongoing courtcase about freedom of conscience in Sweden. Mrs Grimmark lost her job and was refused employment due to her refusal to perform abortions as part of her tasks as a midwife at several Swedish hospitals. – “This is a concrete case that proves that freedom of conscience for medical staff is all but a theoretical problem in Sweden”, says Ruth Nordström.

In its decision the European Committee of Social Rights states that it has previously, in a Collective Complaint against Italy, considered whether freedom of conscience in accordance with article 11 of the European Social Rights Charter affects women’s access to abortion in Italy (International Planned Parenthood Federation vs. Italy (Complaint 87/2012)).

The Committee establishes that article 11 is not applicable in this case, where the situation is the opposite, i.e. where women’s access to abortion is not affected. Since article 11 is not applicable the Committee does not take a position regarding the issue of discrimination according to article E in the European Social Rights Charter.” says Ruth Nordström.

The Swedish Federation of Medical Doctors (Läkarförbundet) and the Swedish Federation of Medical Staff (Vårdförbundet) together with the Swedish Planned Parenthood Federation (RFSU) recently claimed that ”conscience clauses threaten free abortion”. In other words the official representative bodies of medical staff in Sweden consider access to abortion as superior to freedom of conscience. FAFCE’s President Antoine Renard remarks that “this statement is a stark contrast to the position recently expressed in another Council of Europe Member State, namely France where The National Council of the Order of Medical Doctors publically opposes the suppression of the conscience clause related to abortion and “recalls that it is a fundamental provision foreseen by the medical deontological statute-book and by the public health law.”

Furthermore, the Committee considers that it cannot be proven that the number of abortions in Sweden is considerably high or that these abortions are a result of insufficient access to preventive measures.

FAFCE’s Secretary General Maria Hildingsson underlines that ”Sweden has among the highest abortion rates in Europe, year after year, statistics show this trend very clearly.” She considers that “it is regrettable that the European Committee of Social Rights does not take a clear stance in favour of stronger legal protection regarding the ethical issues addressed in the Complaint.

Regarding sex selective abortions in Sweden, another issue reported in the Complaint and the treatment of infants surviving late term abortions the Committee states in its decision ”that FAFCE’s complaints relate to an issue which is very sensitive for many of the State Parties to the Charter, i.e. the question of when human life begins, which depends on the wide diversity of values and traditions in the different states.”. The Committee pursues by saying that “States Parties enjoy a wide margin of appreciation in deciding when life begins and it is therefore for each State Party to determine, within this margin of appreciation, the extent to which a foetus has a right to health.”

“The issue of infants surviving late term abortion has caught considerable attention across Europe during the recent months, namely in connection with a petition signed by over 200 000 citizens which will be debated in the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee of the PACE next week” underlines FAFCE’s President Antoine Renard.

“It is astonishing that the Committee argues that Member States should decide when life begins. It is an undisputed biological fact that life begins at conception. What the committee is likely to mean is when the unborn life should be protected and granted human dignity. This wording can hardly be due to ignorance, but rather it is a rhetorical approach that’s both tendentious and cynically” says Tomas Seidal, Vice President of KLM.

”The issue of abortion has been, is and will remain controversial for us who work in medical care, since it is a unique intervention with the consequence of putting an end to a human life. We also consider that the issue becomes particularly complicated when the unborn child is the object of medical care in other circumstances, and as such a patient with the right to life and health care. If it collides with a strongly established conviction and belief against extinguishing a life at its beginning, there must be room for conscientious freedom” says Tomas Seidal.

Contact:

Maria Hildingsson, Secretary General, European Federation of Catholic Family Associations  (FAFCE)
+32 4 70 20 39 18
m.hildingsson@fafce.org

Ruth Nordström, President, Provita 
+46 70 725 1917
ruth.nordstrom@provitasweden.org

Tomas Seidal, Vice-President, Christian Medical Doctors and Students (KLM)
ht.seidal@gmail.com


Founded in 1997 the European Federation of Catholic Family Associations (FAFCE) holds a participatory status with the Council of Europe, is a member of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency Platform, and represents family associations from 15 European countries.

Doctors, midwives revolt over mandatory abortions

Legal center files complaint with U.N. over requirement to participate

World Net Daily

Bob Unruh

A formal complaint has been submitted to the United Nations against Sweden over its practice of requiring physicians and others to perform abortions.

While there was an uproar in the United States and a successful court challenge to President Obama’s plans to require people to pay into a fund for abortions, in Sweden officials have carried the mandate much further, according to the complaint submitted by the European Center for Law and Justice.

Director Gregor Puppinck wrote to Heiner Bielefeldt, special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, at the office of the high commission on human rights at the U.N.

The victims are represented by several named midwives, doctors and pediatricians, he explained. . . [Full text]

Babies born alive during abortion will receive no help from the Council of Europe, documents show

LifeSite News

LifeSite News Staff

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe is unwilling to take up the issue of babies who are born alive and left to die or killed after an unsuccessful late-term abortion.

Reports from medical workers suggest that many of children born alive during botched abortions are “evacuated” along with hospital waste or left to die in another hospital room or in a storeroom, despite signs of life. Others receive lethal injections or are smothered.

Documents furnished to LifeSiteNews show that a written question from a Spanish member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe submitted to the Committee at the beginning of this year will receive no answer, because the ministers could not reach consensus about what should happen in such an instance. [Full text]

El problema de la objeción de conciencia no regulada

Cuando la conciencia molesta a la ley

Sean Murphy*

A finales de 2010, en la Asamblea Parlamentaria del Consejo de Europa (PACE) se presentó un informe de su Comisión de Asuntos Sociales, Salud y Familia en el que expresaba su profunda preocupación por el problema de la “objeción de conciencia no regulada” en Europa. El Comité propuso que los Estados adoptaran “una regulación integral y clara” para hacer frente a este problema. . .[aceprensa]

The problem of unregulated conscientious objection

  Sean Murphy*

In late 2010, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) was presented with a report from its Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee expressing deep concern about the problem of “unregulated conscientious objection” in Europe.  The Committee proposed to solve this problem by having states adopt “comprehensive and clear regulations” to address it.

The Council ultimately adopted a resolution that almost completely contradicted the premises of the report, but in 2011 the theme was resurrected by Dr. Leslie Cannold, an Australian ethicist.  Dr. Cannold warned that, “[a]t best, unregulated conscientious objection is an accident waiting to happen,” and, at worst, “a sword wielded by the pious against the vulnerable with catastrophic results.”  It was, she wrote, “a pressing problem from which we can no longer, in good conscience, look away.” . . .[Full text]

 

Council of Europe Hailed for Religious-Freedom Resolution

Resolution 1928 says that the assembly must ‘accommodate religious beliefs in  the public sphere by guaranteeing freedom of thought in relation to health care,  education and the civil service.’

National Catholic Register

Carl Bunderson/CNA/EWTN NEWS

STRASBOURG, France — A resolution passed by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly is being lauded as an important — although limited —  recognition of religious and conscience rights in the public sphere.

“The important step with this resolution is the mention of the right to  conscientious objection and the enlargement of its scope of application,” Grégor  Puppinck, general director of the European Centre for Law and Justice, told  Catholic News Agency April 29. [Read more . . .]