The Cost of Conscience: Kant on Conscience and Conscientious Objection

Jeanette Kennett

Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics


The spread of demands by physicians and allied health professionals for accommodation of their private ethical, usually religiously based, objections to providing care of a particular type, or to a particular class of persons, suggests the need for a re-evaluation of conscientious objection in healthcare and how it should be regulated. I argue on Kantian grounds that respect for conscience and protection of freedom of conscience is consistent with fairly stringent limitations and regulations governing refusal of service in healthcare settings. Respect for conscience does not entail that refusal of service should be cost free to the objector. I suggest that conscientious objection in medicine should be conceptualized and treated analogously to civil disobedience.

Kennett J. The Cost of Conscience: Kant on Conscience and Conscientious Objection. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics. 2017 Jan; 26(1): 69 – 81

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