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 Background: In 2019, the Constitutional Court of South Korea ruled that the anti-abortion provisions in the Criminal Act, which criminalize abortion, do not conform to the Constitution. This decision will lead to a total reversal of doctors’ legal duty from the obligation to refuse abortion services to their requirement to provide them, given the Medical Service Act that states that a doctor may not refuse a request for treatment or assistance in childbirth. I argue, confined to abortion services in Korea that will take place in the near future, that doctors should be granted the legal right to exercise conscientious objection to abortion.
Main text: Considering that doctors in Korea have been ethically and legally obligated to refrain from abortions for many years, imposing a universal legal duty to provide abortions that does not allow exception may endanger the moral integrity of individual doctors who chose a career when abortion was illegal. The universal imposition of such a duty may result in repudiation of doctors as moral agents and damage trust in doctors that forms the basis of medical professionalism. Even if conscientious objection to abortion is granted as a legal right, most patients would experience no impediment to receiving abortion services because the healthcare environment of Korea provides options in which patients can choose their doctors based on prior information, there are many doctors who would be willing to provide an abortion, and Korea is a relatively small country. Finally, the responsibility to effectively balance and guarantee the respective rights of the two agents involved in abortion, the doctor and the patient, should be imposed on the government rather than individual doctors. This assertion is based on the government’s past behaviours, the nature of its relationship with doctors, and the capacity it has to satisfy both doctors’ right to conscientious objection and patients’ right to legal medical services.
Conclusion: With regard to abortion services that will be sought in the near future, doctors should be granted the legal right to exercise conscientious objection based on the importance of doctor’s moral integrity, lack of impediment to patients, and government responsibility.
Abstract This Article presents the first empirical study of state conscience laws that establish explicit procedural protections for medical providers who refuse to participate in providing reproductive health services, including abortion, sterilization, contraception, and emergency contraception.
Scholarship and public debate about law’s role in protecting health care providers’ conscience rights typically focus on who should be protected, what actions should be protected, and whether there should be any limitations on the exercise of conscience rights. This study, conducted in accordance with best methodological practices from the social sciences for policy surveillance and legal mapping, is the first to provide concrete data on the vital but unanswered question of how these laws actually operate–that is, the precise procedural mechanisms by which laws protect medical providers who decline to provide services that violate their deeply held conscientious beliefs.
This Article demonstrates that state laws vary dramatically in the types of protections they offer. States may immunize health care providers from a range of potential adverse consequences including civil liability, criminal prosecution, professional discipline, employment discrimination, discrimination in educational opportunities, and denial of public or private funding, among others. Of these, immunity from civil liability, or “civil immunity,” is by far the most common procedural protection. In a majority of states, civil immunity is absolute–providing no exceptions in cases of malpractice, denial of emergency treatment, or even patient death. In practice, these laws eliminate patients’ common law right to recover monetary damages when they suffer physical injury as a result of a health care provider’s conscience-based deviation from the standard of care.
While many scholars have examined the impact of conscience laws on patient access to medical care, there has been no comprehensive analysis of these laws’ impact on patients’ right to a tort law remedy when they are denied care. This Article not only raises awareness of the previously unrecognized breadth of protections established by U.S. conscience law, but also challenges basic assumptions about tort law’s ability to remedy harms suffered by victims of medical malpractice in reproductive health care contexts. These findings create an important opportunity for further policy discussion about the scope of health care conscience laws.
Robert F. Card. A New Theory of Conscientious Objection in Medicine: Justification and Reasonability. New York & London: Routledge, 2020, 268 pp. ISBN-10:0367430819
Publisher Summary This book argues that a conscientiously objecting medical professional should receive an exemption only if the grounds of an objector’s refusal are reasonable. It defends a detailed, contextual account of public reasonability suited for healthcare, which builds from the overarching concept of Rawlsian public reason.
The author analyzes the main competing positions and maintains that these other views fail precisely due to their systematic inattention to the grounding reasons behind a conscientious objection; he argues that any such view is plausible to the extent that it mimics the ‘reason-giving requirement’ for conscience objections defended in this work. Only reasonable objections can defeat the prior professional obligation to assign primacy to patient well-being, therefore one who refuses a patient’s request for a legally available, medically indicated, and safe service must be able to explain the grounds of their objection in terms understandable to other citizens within the public institutional structure of medicine. The book further offers a novel policy proposal to deploy the Reasonability View: establishing conscientious objector status in medicine. It concludes that the Reasonability View is a viable and attractive position in this debate.
A New Theory of Conscientious Objection in Medicine: Justification and Reasonability will be of interest to researchers and advanced students working in bioethics, medical ethics, and philosophy of medicine, as well as thinkers interested in the intersections between law, medical humanities, and philosophy.
Rachel Kogan, Katherine L Kraschel, Claudia E Haupt
Abstract This article canvasses laws protecting clinicians’ conscience and focuses on dilemmas that occur when a clinician refuses to perform a procedure consistent with the standard of care. In particular, the article focuses on patients’ experience with a conscientiously objecting clinician at a secular institution, where patients are least likely to expect conscience-based care restrictions. After reviewing existing laws that protect clinicians’ conscience, the article discusses limited legal remedies available to patients.
Extract . . . Competence and character are no longer the sole criteria for evaluating a judicial nominee; candidates face a climate which demands they have the “correct” moral opinions on fundamental human rights issues. Those issues include abortion, marriage, and the euphemistically-termed Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD). . . to disregard the judicial conscience is to compromise the dignity of the judge, the worth of her convictions, the fullness of her humanity. Even more, it undermines the very essence of what distinguishes a democratic society characterized by diversity, inclusion, and freedom.
A Clash of Organizational and Individual Conscience
Extract The 2016 Colorado End-of-Life Options Act includes a provision unique among states with such laws, specifically privileging individual health care professionals, including physicians and pharmacists, to choose whether to write and fill prescriptions for life-ending medications, such as high-dose secobarbital or various combinations of morphine, diazepam, beta-blockers, and digoxin, without regard to the position their employer has taken on the law. This provision virtually guaranteed the Colorado law would eventually be challenged, which happened in August 2019.1 The current legal case directly pits the conscience rights of individual health care professionals against those of religiously affiliated corporations. Because 5 of the top 10 US hospital systems by net revenue are now religiously affiliated,2 and these systems often restrict medical care in a variety of ways,3 how the case is resolved could have far-reaching implications for US health care, extending well beyond the relatively rare use of aid-in-dying medications at the end of life.
Extract If the courts rule that the Constitution allows hospitals to exert control over individual physicians’ claims of professional conscience, it will be a victory for corporate medicine. But if the state law is upheld, the case could establish that physicians’ professional conscience claims hold or take precedence over the ethical and religious directives of religiously affiliated hospitals. It is possible that at least some religiously affiliated health systems might rather close than allow that outcome.
The Family Court of Australia has stepped back from a previously perceived need for involvement in the approval of stage 1 and stage 2 treatments, for children requiring gender transformation. At present those children and their families who are in agreement need not seek authorisation of the Family Court to undertake either Stage 1 (pubarche blockade with gonadotrophin-releasing hormone agonists) or Stage 2 treatment (cross-hormone therapy such as oestrogen for transgender males). Stage 1 treatment to suppress pubarche would nowadays be commenced at Tanner stage 2 which commences as early as 9.96 years in girls and 10.14 years in boys. Suppression of puberty continues until the age of 16 years when cross hormonal treatment commences. This article questions the assertion that suppression of puberty by GnRH analogues either in cases of precocious puberty or gender dysphoria is “safe and reversible” and argues that it warrants ongoing caution, despite the Family Court having broadly accepted that assertion.
Susanna Mancini and Michel Rosenfeld (eds). The Conscience Wars: Rethinking the Balance between Religion, Identity, and Equality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018, pp. 493. ISBN: 978-1107173309
Extract This volume is based on a conference held at the Cardozo School of Law in ew York in 2015, and brings together American and European law academics to discuss the distinctive ways in which conscience claims have ‘spread’ in the public discourse over the last two or three decades. Conscientious objection used to be an individual matter for e.g. draftees and doctors, aimed at recusing oneself from complicity with evil, in contrast to civil disobedience, which was a larger collective movement aimed at changing public opinion and the law. These days, however, conscience seems to be in the news much more, mostly associated with organized religious conservative agendas – hence the title’s reference to a ‘war’ playing out in parallel to the efforts in and around a country’s legislature. Perhaps the most famous recent case of mobilized public conscience was that of the US Supreme Court case of Burwell u Hobby Lobby (2014), in which the owners of a company successfully challenged the legal requirement (under the 2010 Affordable Care Act) that the company fund contraception for its female employees. The owners’ objection was religious, and was framed in terms of their right to religious expression. . .