Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude


The deficiencies and dangers of ‘radical individualism’
Book Review: What it means to be human: The case for the body in Public Bioethics
Margaret Somerville | Anyone concerned about the current values conflicts in our societies should read this book. Although it focuses on conflicts in public bioethics, the insights of the author, O. Carter Snead, have application to a much broader range of values conflicts in what are sometimes called the "culture wars". . .continue reading
What Does it Mean to be Human?
Teresa Iglesias  |  One of the most fundamental questions that is increasingly facing bioethicists and society alike is the question, "What does it mean to be human?" "In what consists the act of being human?" "Is my humanity a 'bodily' humanity?" In every area of philosophical concern we are always thrown back to these basic questions . . .continue reading
Defining Human Dignity
Margaret Somerville | Euthanasia advocates argue respect for human dignity requires that euthanasia be legalized and opponents of euthanasia argue exactly the opposite, that respect for human dignity requires it remain prohibited. In short, the concept of human dignity and what is required to respect it is at the centre of the euthanasia debate, but there is no consensus on what we mean by human dignity, its proper use, or its basis. . . continue reading
Preserving Humanity
Margaret Somerville |  Whether humans are "special" -- sometimes referred to as human exceptionalism or uniqueness -- and, therefore, deserve "special respect" is a controversial and central question in bioethics, and how we answer it will have a major impact on many important ethical issues. . . continue reading
Scientific and Philosophical Expertise: An Evaluation of the Arguments on "Personhood"
Dianne N. Irving |  . . .I will address some of the kinds of major scientific and philosophical arguments used to support the sudden appearance of "personhood" at different biological "marker events", indicating that such arguments are arbitrarily grounded on scientific data which is incorrect or misapplied; and that the philosophical claims of these arguments are arbitrarily grounded in systems of philosophy which are themselves very problematic, as any historian of philosophy well knows. . .continue reading


Bioethics and natural law: an interview with John Keown
Xavier Symons, John Keown | Bioethics discourse is often divided into two broad categories: utilitarian perspectives and so-called deontological or Kantian approaches to ethics. An alternative viewpoint that receives far less attention is a natural law perspective on ethics and medicine. The natural law approach emphasizes interests or ends common to all members of humanity, and offers a teleological account of morality and human flourishing.

Professor John Keown of Georgetown University's Kennedy Institute for Ethics recently co-authored a book on natural law with the late Georgetown Professor Alfonso Gómez-Lobo. The book is entitled Bioethics and the Human Goods: An Introduction to Natural Law Bioethics. The Deputy Editor of BioEdge, Xavier Symons, interviewed Professor Keown about his latest work.. . . continue reading

Conscience and the History of Moral Philosophy
The President's Council on Bioethics, 11 September, 2008
Edumund Pellegrino | Opening Remarks 
J. Paris  | Conscience is a word we all use, and it's not very well understood. Despite the fact that there is an enormously rich, complex history to it going back into the ancient Hebrews, into the ancient Greeks . . .
Discussion | John Paris, Gilbert C. Meilaender, Alfonso Gómez-Lobo, Jean Beth Elshtain, Benjamin S. Carson, Rebecca S. Dresser, William B. Hurlbut
A Better Concept of Freedom
George Weigel | . . . Isaiah Berlin . . . deserves considerable credit for identifying the perversion of liberty that was at the root of the totalitarian project, and for defending a concept of liberty-as-noninterference that, in setting legal limits to coercive state power, has deep resonances in the American political tradition. And yet, forty-four years after "Two Concepts of Liberty," one has to ask whether Berlin's analysis of the problem of freedom is truly adequate. . . .continue reading
Are "Values" the Same as Virtues?
Iain T. Benson | When professional codes of conduct allude to 'personal values', and workplace controversies about issues of conscience are characterized as 'conflicts of values", it is past time to ask what meaning is conveyed by such terms. The author holds that values language "obscures moral discourse rather than furthers it." His short article serves as a suitable introduction to the subject. . . continue reading
What is Natural Law and What is its Bearing on Obstetrics and Gynaecology?
Eamon O'Dwyer | . . . Natural Law is rooted in history. To understand it fully and to appreciate its significance, it is necessary to trace its development from its origin in ancient Greek philosophy. . . Natural Law . . . is not just a theory of natural rights. It is the Golden Rule which "contains all that makes for the preservation of human life, and all that is opposed to its dissolution." . . .continue reading
Notes toward an understanding of freedom of conscience
Sean Murphy | . . .Discussion has not gone deep enough to address underlying disagreements about the nature of the human person that shape disputes about freedom of conscience. . . continue reading
Handling Issues of Conscience
J. Budziszewski | . . .I assume, because you have asked me to examine of issues of conscience, that you agree with me that students have a conscience. Yet haven't we - - I mean the collective we, the Academy - - haven't we been earnestly telling students for several generations that they have no such thing? Freudians have said there is no conscience but only superego, behaviorists that there is no conscience but only inhibitions. Anthropologists have said there is no conscience but only mores, sociologists that there is no conscience but only socialization. Now at last come those Johnnie-come-latelies, the postmodernists, telling the students that there is no conscience but only narratives. . .continue reading
The fundamental right to refuse
Crispin Sartwell | . . .The idea that, in assuming some function -- some career, for instance -- I resign my conscience to the institution or to the state is perhaps the single most pernicious notion in human history. . . continue reading
A question of conscience.
Why are pro-choice activists so dismissive of freedom of conscience?
Michael Cook  | The conscience of a moral relativist makes arbitrary, even capricious, choices. It is just a whim. The traditional view of conscience is quite different. Only a malfunctioning conscience is capricious. . . continue reading


Science, the Formation of Conscience and Moral Decision Making
Dianne N. Irving | The author points out that knowing correct scientific information is preliminary to moral decision making by the patient, the physician and a multitude of others. She argues that any scientific error in the beginning precludes one from making morally correct decisions in the end. The author writes from a Catholic perspective, but her approach to the subject may be adopted without difficulty by non-Catholics. The paper was written for a mixed audience of 'average citizens' and specialists in academic disciplines. The text is accessible to the non-specialist, while the extensive end notes meet the exacting requirements of academic discussion. . . continue reading
The Problem of Complicity
Sean Murphy | It appears that most people are willing to grant that a health care worker who has serious moral objections to a procedure should not be compelled to perform it or assist directly with it. However, many people find it more difficult to understand why some health care workers object to even indirect forms of involvement: why they might refuse to help patients obtain a morally controversial service or procedure by referring them to a more willing colleague. . .continue reading
Referral: A False Compromise
Sean Murphy | The notion that referral is an acceptable compromise may presume that moral culpability attaches only to direct participation in X, and not to facilitating the provision of X by someone else. This presumption contradicts important religious and moral traditions that hold that we may . . . continue reading
Rounding the Horn with the Principle of Double Effect
Sean Murphy | . . . The audience finds British Captain Jack (Lucky Jack) Aubrey and the crew of his man o'war on the north coast of Brazil, hunting the French privateer Acheron. The film follows the hunt down the east coast of South America, around Cape Horn and into the Pacific. . .It is remarkable to find a principle that is sometimes mocked as ethical sleight-of-hand so vividly illustrated by acting, music and script in a popular film. . . continue reading
Facilitating an unethical practice is unethical
Madelyn Hisaio-Rei Hicks | I am an adult psychiatrist who has worked in public sector psychiatry in the US and the UK. In both countries, physicians struggle with the ethics and professional meaning of legalized or proposed physician-assisted suicide (PAS). I was recently asked by an organization to host a CME course titled “Best Practices in the End-of-Life Options Act.” Passed in 2016, the Act legalized the practice of PAS in California.  . . continue reading