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

Service, not Servitude

Liberty of conscience is critical for individual doctors

"Lies at the very heart of our integrity"

13 June, 2011
Reproduced with permission

Dan Wooding*

"To sacrifice conscience and be concerned only with service provision is to destroy the heart and soul of medicine."

'Liberty of conscience is critical for individual doctors as it lies at the very heart of our integrity,' says founder of Medicine with Morality

He was speaking at unique 'Spirituality and Medicine' conference.

Brisbane, Australia. Dr. Lachlan Dunjey, founder of Medicine with Morality, an Australian group, told a gathering of 220 Christian doctors and medical professionals that doctors should not be compelled to take part in a procedure they do not agree with for moral reasons.

"Liberty of conscience is critical for individual doctors as it lies at the very heart of our integrity," he said. "It is conscience that must compel doctors to refuse to participate in treatments they believe to be un-ethical.

"It is not enough for doctors to simply be providers of medical services on demand from consumers or third parties, providing all that is legal whether or not it is consistent with their ethical base. To sacrifice conscience and be concerned only with service provision is to destroy the heart and soul of medicine."

Dr. Dunjey from Perth, Western Australia, was speaking at the 8th Annual Christian Medical Conference in Brisbane, Australia, that took place June 11-12, 2011.

The conference mainly looked at cases of "miracles" with data provided by the speakers, but this conference there were also several speakers who looked at the wider side of ethics in medicine.

Dr. Dunjey, who is also founder of the Liberty of Conscience Declaration, commented on the Section 8 provision of the 2008 Victorian (Australia) abortion bill that compels doctors to be complicit in the referral process and said, "Until it is reversed, the refusal of doctor's right of conscience has paved the way for compulsory participation in other unethical procedures such as physician assisted suicide.

"Infringement of conscience is a serious challenge facing modern medicine. Medical codes of conduct must never be subject to degradation by government. Governments may legislate to permit certain practices or procedures but governments must never force doctors to violate their conscience by compulsory engagement in such practices or procedures."

He quoted J. Scott Ries, MD as saying: "When legal code supersedes moral code, the slope of a culture's decline is steep and swift."

He reminded the audience of medical professionals that on the fiftieth anniversary of the Nuremberg medical trials in 1996 at a conference titled "Medicine and Conscience" doctors warned of the threatening separation of medicine from morality and that physicians must be above state-decreed strategies.

"The remarkable thing is that although the 2006 Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities clearly states the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief and that this must not be limited in observance or practice, the Victorian government in passing the Section 8 provision failed to heed its own charter.

"This was even more remarkable in light of the fact that the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee drew attention to this breach and put two questions to Parliament neither of which was answered. The Victorian government spectacularly failed to uphold its own charter just two years after it was passed."

He also reminded the audience that this was also in breach of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights which has the right to this freedom as one that is non-derogable that cannot be waived even in national emergencies, thus showing how significant freedom of conscience is.

"Likewise the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, formulated to ensure that the atrocities and beliefs of those preceding horrific years would never be repeated also states this right. How can it be that we dismiss these warnings so readily and discard the lessons of history?

"It is one thing to pass a law that permits evil but it is something more to pass a law that compels evil. The government of Victoria remains condemned and its people on the whole do not understand what their government has done. It introduced a charter that excluded abortion and child destruction with flagrant disregard of the international charters and then failed to apply what was good in the charter to liberty of conscience."

A previous speaker had commented on the Australian government's quick reaction regarding the inhumane slaughter of cattle in Indonesia and that it was a pity that the government would not also react with respect to abortion.

Dr. Dunjey commented: "Our animal activist friends get really upset when they see a dolphin or whale fetus cut from its mother and rightly so. Yet these are frequently intact and have not been shredded or pulled apart (as the baby is). How can it be that our society is so schizophrenic that we get upset about dolphin (or cattle) slaughter yet rabidly defend our right to kill our unborn babies? How can this be?

"It may be that this battle too may be won with word pictures and visual images and a new generation will thank us and wonder why the truth was withheld for so long."

He also highlighted the that infringement of conscience was also significant with respect to routine pre-natal diagnosis of abnormality with implied subsequent abortion, unrestricted euthanasia and physician assisted suicide - even for the non-dying and the "troubled teen" as Dr. Nitschke has suggested - and the connection of all these matters with respect to truly informed consent.

The 9th Annual "Spirituality and Medicine" conference will be held next year near the end of May in Nairobi, Kenya.

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