In a recent Journal of Medical Ethics article, controversial bioethicist Francesca Minerva argues for limiting the number of conscientious objectors in Italian hospitals.
Minerva asserts that conscientious objection “prevents access to certain treatments”, and proposes that we set up disincentives for objectors in hospitals. The proposed solutions include offering higher salaries for non-objectors and establishing ‘conscientious objector quotas’. She concludes:
When conscience-related issues prevent access to a certain treatment, such as abortion in Italy, the public health system, or the Ministry of Health in this case, has to find a solution that safeguards and protects the health of the patients as a priority.
In a response to Minerva, Oxford theologian and ethicist Roger Trigg argues that conscientious objection is a necessary part of the practice of medicine:
Once we discount conscientious moral reasoning, medicine is reduced to a technical issue about procedures, without any regard to their effect on the greater human good.
In the case of abortion, he suggests that high rates of conscientious objection might indicate a need to reconsider the original policy:
One problem with abortion is that for the most part those making the political decision are not those who have to implement the policy. If the latter object in sufficiently high numbers to make the policy hard to implement, that might be a reason for assuming there could be something wrong with what was being proposed.
This article is published by Xavier Symons and BioEdge.org under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation to Bioedge. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.