(Feb 2009) The Personal is Political, the Professional is Not: Conscientious Objection to Obtaining/Providing/Acting On Genetic Information

by Joel Frader and Charles L. Bosk
15 February 2009
Am J Med Genet C Semin Med Genet,  151C(1): 62–67, doi:10.1002/ajmg.c.30200


Conscientious objection (CO) to genetic testing raises serious questions about what it means to be a health care professional (HCP). Most of the discussion about CO has focused on the logic of moral arguments for and against aspects of CO and has ignored the social context in which CO occurs. Invoking CO to deny services to patients violates both the professional’s duty to respect the patient’s autonomy and also the community standards that determine legitimate treatment options. The HCP exercising the right of CO may make it impossible for the patient to exercise constitutionally guaranteed rights to self-determination around reproduction. This creates a decision-making imbalance between the HCP and the patient that amounts to an abuse of professional power. To prevent such abuses, professionals who wish to refrain from participating have an obligation to warn prospective patients of their objections prior to establishing a professional-patient relationship or, if a relationship already exists, to arrange for alternative care expeditiously.

Source: American Journal of Medical Genetics