Top employment strategies for discouraging conscientious objection

Bioedge

Xavier Symons

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.


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Accommodating conscience in medicine

J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2013-101892 Commentary

Roger Trigg

The issue of conscientious objection to agreed public policy is a vexed one. The clearest example is that of conscientious objection to military service. A free and democratic society has to respect the consciences of those who believe that killing in battle is absolutely wrong. Many disagree with the moral stance being taken, but it has been seen as the mark of a mature and civilised society to respect the conscience of pacifists. The freedom to be able to live by what one thinks most important has been seen as a constituent element in the freedoms that others have fought to preserve.

Respect for the conscience of those medical professionals who feel unable to participate in abortion appears to be in the same category (as would be respect for those who refused to participate in assisted suicide or euthanasia). Issues about the value of human life are at stake. Matters are undoubtedly complicated in the case of abortion by arguments over the supposed ‘humanity’ or ‘personhood’ of a fetus. Even so, some sincerely regard abortion as murder. Mutual respect is easy between people who agree. The problem in a democratic society arises when there is significant disagreement, but it is … [Full text]

 

Canary in the Coal Mine: Mounting Religious Restrictions in Europe

Religious Freedom Project
Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs

Roger Trigg

On January 15, 2013, the European Court of Human Rights issued judgments on four cases of great significance for the cause of religious freedom. What they say could well have repercussions beyond Europe itself. . .

These four cases all came from the United Kingdom, and concerned the place of religion, and a religiously formed conscience, in modern European society. . . The point of principle at stake is how much importance should be given publically to religiously based principles, particularly in societies that are growing increasingly secular. [Read on]

 

New book documents erosion of religious freedom

By Project advisor, Professor Roger Trigg

Is religious freedom being curtailed in pursuit of equality, and the outlawing of discrimination? Is enough effort made to accommodate those motivated by a religious conscience? All rights matter but at times the right to put religious beliefs into practice increasingly takes second place in the law of different countries to the pursuit of other social priorities. The right to freedom of belief and to manifest belief is written into all human rights charters. In the United States religious freedom is sometimes seen as ‘the first freedom’. Yet increasingly in many jurisdictions in Europe and North America, religious freedom can all too easily be ‘trumped’ by other rights.