(2015) Conscientious Objection in Medicine: private ideological convictions must not supercede public service obligations

“The very idea that we ought to countenance conscientious objection in any profession is objectionable.”

U. Schuklenk
Bioethics ISSN 0269-9702 (print); 1467-8519 (online) doi:10.1111/bioe.12167
Volume 29 Number 5 2015 pp ii–iii

Canada’s Supreme Court decided that Canadians’ constitutional rights are violated by the criminalisation of assisted dying. Canada’s politicians are currently scrambling to come up with an assisted dying regime within the 12 month period that the Supreme Court gave them to fix the problem.

Since then, the Canadian Medical Association, the country’s doctors’ lobby organisation, has insisted not only that doctors must not be forced to provide assisted dying but also that doctors must not be required to transfer patients asking for assisted dying on to a colleague who they know will oblige these patients.

In many countries, including Canada, conscientious objection clauses protect – mostly – healthcare professionals from being forced to act against their individual ideological convictions. I suspect it isn’t unfair to note that these protections in the real world are nothing other than protections for Christian doctors who are unwilling to deliver services they would be obliged to deliver to patients who are legally entitled to receive these services, were it not for their religiously motivated objections.

Secular healthcare professionals could arguably avail themselves of conscience clauses, but in a liberal democracy, what reasonable conscience-based cause could they have to refuse the provision of healthcare services to patients? Conscience clauses today are by and large a concession of special rights to Christian healthcare professionals, at least in secular Western democracies.

Read full article: www.academia.edu