Extract Conscientious objection in health care always affects someone else’s health or access to care because the refusal interrupts the delivery of health services. Therefore, conscientious objection in health care always has a social dimension and cannot be framed solely as an issue of individual rights or beliefs. . . . Conscience rights are also limited by the foundational duty of care, which must be maintained through referrals and transfers so that a refusal to provide a service does not result in abandonment of a patient. . . Physicians who work in the 11 U.S. jurisdictions that permit terminally ill people, under certain conditions, to request a prescription of lethal medication with the goal of ending their lives may also have mixed emotions and intuitions about participating in medical aid-in-dying. . . Conscientious objection to providing or participating in certain activities on principle should not be used to avoid patient care that a professional finds stressful, or as a remedy for the common problem of moral distress.
Lidia Casas, Lori Freedman, Alejandra Ramm, Sara Correa, C Finley Baba, M Antonia Biggs
Abstract CONTEXT: In 2017, Chile reformed its abortion law to allow the procedure under limited circumstances. Exploring the views of Chilean medical and midwifery faculty regarding abortion and the use of conscientious objection (CO) at the time of reform can inform how these topics are being taught to the country’s future health care providers.
METHODS: Between March and September 2017, 30 medical and midwifery school faculty from universities in Santiago, Chile were interviewed; 20 of the faculty taught at secular universities and 10 taught at religiously affiliated universities. Faculty perspectives on CO and abortion, the scope of CO, and teaching about CO and abortion were analyzed using a grounded theory approach.
RESULTS: Most faculty at secular and religiously affiliated universities supported the rights of clinicians to refuse to provide abortion care. Secular-university faculty generally thought that CO should be limited to specific providers and rejected the idea of institutional CO, whereas religious-university faculty strongly supported the use of CO by a broad range of providers and at the institutional level. Only secular-university faculty endorsed the idea that CO should be regulated so that it does not hinder access to abortion care.
CONCLUSIONS: The broader support for CO in abortion among religious-university faculty raises concerns about whether students are being taught their ethical responsibility to put the needs of their patients above their own. Future research should monitor whether Chile’s CO regulations and practices are guaranteeing people’s access to abortion care..
Abstract Some people will confront Alzheimer’s with a measure of resignation, a determination to struggle against the progressive debilitation and to extract whatever comforts and benefits they can from their remaining existence. They are entitled to pursue that resolute path. For other people, like myself, protracted maintenance during progressive cognitive dysfunction and helplessness is an intolerably degrading prospect. The critical question for those of us seeking to avoid protracted dementia is how best to accomplish that objective. One strategy is to engineer one’s own death while still mentally competent to do so (even in the stage of mild dementia). If I were to use a preemptive strategy in the face of a dementia diagnosis, I would probably choose to stop eating and drinking, a process known as voluntarily stopping eating and drinking. An alternative tactic for avoiding prolonged dementia would be to allow oneself to decline into moderate dementia—thus losing capacity to perform self-deliverance or even to make serious medical decisions—but before getting to that point to provide advance instructions rejecting prospective life-sustaining medical interventions. These advance instructions would authorize palliative but not curative measures. My current personal instructions define the point of intolerable cognitive decline triggering medical nonintervention as “mental deterioration to a point when I can no longer read and understand written material such as a newspaper or financial records such as a checkbook.” These instructions dictate allowing my demise at a point of moderate dementia when I may not be perceptibly suffering, when I may still be getting some rudimentary satisfaction from my debilitated life, and when I no longer recall the preoccupation with personally intolerable indignity that motivated my instructions. Can I expect that my advance instructions will be implemented in those circumstances? Is it lawful, and is it moral for a surrogate decision-maker and associated caregivers to allow an uncomprehending, ostensibly content but demented individual to die? My analysis herein contends that it is not only lawful and moral but also legally required to implement clear, considered advance instructions even at a stage of moderate dementia.
Louise P King, Rachel L Zacharias, Josephine Johnston
Abstract Respect for autonomy is a central value in reproductive ethics, but it can be a challenge to fulfill and is sometimes an outright puzzle to understand. If a woman requests the transfer of two, three, or four embryos during fertility treatment, is that request truly autonomous, and do clinicians disrespect her if they question that decision or refuse to carry it out? Add a commitment to justice to the mix, and the challenge can become more complex still. Is it unfair for insurance policies to exclude from coverage the costs of giving fertility to those who lack it or restoring fertility in those who have lost it? What does “just reproduction” look like in the face of multifarious understandings of both justice and autonomy and in light of increasingly complex and costly reproductive technologies? In today’s dialogue about reproduction, medicine, and ethics in the United States, old ethical issues—such as whether women ought to be allowed to access pregnancy termination—are more contested than they have been in decades, while new technologies—like those used to edit the genes of human embryos—suggest that our species could face unprecedented questions about who should exist. As we considered the discussions accompanying these issues and contemplated a special report responding to them, we found ourselves consistently circling back to two ethical commitments: respect for autonomy and the pursuit of justice. As one of the nine essays in this collection asks, why should certain women receive help to establish a pregnancy while others are thrown in jail when they miscarry or their child is stillborn? Respect for autonomy is required where individuals have the ability to make fully informed and voluntary choices. Yet does respecting autonomy require acceding to all the choices of patients or consumers of medical care? We consider these and related questions in this special report from the Hastings Center Report..
Abstract: It may be the case that the most challenging moral problem of the twenty-first century will be the relationship between the individual moral agent and the practices and institutions in which the moral agent is embedded. In this paper, we continue the efforts that one of us, Joan Liaschenko, first called for in 1993, that of using feminist ethics as a lens for viewing the relationship between individual nurses as moral agents and the highly complex institutions in which they do the work of nursing. Feminist ethics, with its emphasis on the inextricable relationship between ethics and politics, provides a useful lens to understand the work of nurses in context. Using Margaret Urban Walker’s and Hilde Lindemann’s concepts of identity, relationships, values, and moral agency, we argue that health care institutions can be moral communities and profoundly affect the work and identity and, therefore, the moral agency of all who work within those structures, including nurses. Nurses are not only shaped by these organizations but also have the power to shape them. Because moral agency is intimately connected to one’s identity, moral identity work is essential for nurses to exercise their moral agency and to foster moral community in health care organizations. We first provide a brief history of nursing’s morally problematic relationship with institutions and examine the impact institutional master narratives and corporatism exert today on nurses’ moral identities and agency. We close by emphasizing the significance of ongoing dialogue in creating and sustaining moral communities, repairing moral identities, and strengthening moral agency.
Abstract For too long, bioethics has followed law in reducing “conscience” to “conscientious objection,” in other words, to laws and policies permitting and protecting refusal. In “Reframing Conscientious Care: Providing Abortion Care When Law and Conscience Collide,” Mara Buchbinder and colleagues draw our attention to one dimension of the problem of reducing conscience to refusal to provide certain forms of medical care: what about the conscience problems experienced by the professionals who are attempting to provide safe, effective health care that includes services that others associate with conscientious objection? In seeking to disrupt a specific medical practice – one that is legal, desired by the patient, and conducted in accordance with medical standards – North Carolina House Bill 854, The Women’s Right to Know Act, and laws like it, appear to be designed to produce moral distress in physicians and other professionals involved in the provision of abortions. For abortion providers in North Carolina and other states, conscientious objection to the mandates of laws like HB 854 isn’t a realistic option. So what can bioethics offer to professionals bound by such laws? We can start by reclaiming the idea of “conscience” as something that can say “yes” to providing health care.
Abstract On September 8, 2015, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making to revise the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, widely known as the “Common Rule.” The NPRM proposes several changes to the current system, including a dramatic shift in the approach to secondary research using biospecimens and data. Under the current rules, it is relatively easy to use biospecimens and data for secondary research. This approach systematically facilitates secondary research with biospecimens and data, maximizing the capacity for substantial public benefit. However, it has been criticized as insufficiently protective of the privacy and autonomy interests of biospecimen and data sources. Thus, the NPRM proposes a more restrictive regime, although more so for biospecimens than data. Both the status quo and the NPRM’s proposal are critically flawed.
Mara Buchbinder, Dragana Lassiter, Rebecca Mercier, Amy Bryant, Anne Drapkin Lyerly
Abstract “It’s almost like putting salt in a wound, for this person who’s already made a very difficult decision,” suggested Meghan Patterson (an alias), a licensed obstetrician-gynecologist whom we interviewed in our qualitative study of the experiences of North Carolina abortion providers practicing under the state’s Woman’s Right to Know Act (House Bill 854; 2011). The act requires that women receive counseling with state-mandated information at least twenty-four hours prior to obtaining an abortion. After the law was passed, Patterson worked with clinic administrators, in consultation with a lawyer, to write a script to be used in the state-mandated counseling procedure. She and her colleagues took particular steps to mitigate the effects of what she described as HB 854’s “forced language” – such as referring to the “father of the child.” While HB 854 stipulated that patients must be informed of the medical risks associated with the particular abortion procedure as well as those of carrying the child to term, Patterson’s script made explicit the magnitude of comparative risks, emphasizing that the risks of carrying a pregnancy to term are substantially greater than the risks of an early-term abortion. She felt that these contextualization strategies helped to facilitate trust and rapport in a clinical care situation that proved relationally and morally challenging.
In this article, we take up and expand on this point by elucidating an empirically grounded approach to ethically justified care when health care providers face legal or institutional policy mandates that raise possible moral conflicts. Our approach builds on recent bioethics discourse addressing conscience in the practice of medicine. While the concept of conscience has broad philosophical underpinnings relating to moral judgment, agency, and discernments of right and wrong, debates in bioethics have tended to engage the concept primarily vis-à-vis rights of conscientious objection or refusal. Here, we suggest a broader frame for thinking about claims of conscience in health care. Our approach draws on the feminist bioethics and the ethics of care literatures to highlight how providers may be motivated by matters of conscience, including relational concerns, in the active provision of certain forms of care. What emerges are two possibilities: not only conscientious refusal to comply with a policy mandate but also conscientious compliance – working conscientiously within a mandate’s confines.
Extract In September 2014, a little boy named Vincent was born prematurely, but healthy. While such a birth would usually attract the attention of family and friends, baby Vincent’s arrival made world news. He is the world’s first “womb transplant baby.” Like Louise Brown, Vincent is marked for history. Weeks after Vincent’s birth, two more women gave birth to boys, this time each mother carrying her child in the same womb in which she herself was gestated. . .
. . . This essay explores some of the research and issues raised by uterus transplantation. As is appropriate for an emerging biomedical technology, we approach these new developments with caution. My conclusions are preliminary. While I address some of the arguments pro and con, I will merely suggest some of the theological and biblical themes. These merit a lengthier treatment and charitable dialogue with others.
Extract The controversy in Benitez vs NCWC stands at the nexus of two competing approaches to the issue of “conscience”exemptions. On the one hand, most states have statutes that shield medical students and physicians from having to perform procedures, such as abortion and sterilization, to which they object on religious or moral grounds.