The BMA’s guidance on conscientious objection may be contrary to human rights law

John Olusegun Adenitire

Journal of Medical Ethics

Abstract

It is argued that the current policy of the British Medical Association (BMA) on conscientious objection is not aligned with recent human rights developments. These grant a right to conscientious objection to doctors in many more circumstances than the very few recognised by the BMA. However, this wide-ranging right may be overridden if the refusal to accommodate the conscientious objection is proportionate. It is shown that it is very likely that it is lawful to refuse to accommodate conscientious objections that would result in discrimination of protected groups. It is still uncertain, however, in what particular circumstances the objection may be lawfully refused, if it poses risks to the health and safety of patients. The BMA’s policy has not caught up with these human rights developments and ought to be changed.


Adenitire JO. The BMA’s guidance on conscientious objection may be contrary to human rights law. J Med Ethics 2017;43:260-263.