Rapid Response: extract Jocelyn Downie and Udo Schuklenk conclude, first, that the Canadian experience denies the existence of a ‘slippery slope’ expanding medical termination from a limited to a broader medical constituency. Second, they argue a failure to provide social constituents of health and support is a significant factor in the increased requests for ‘medical aide in dying.’ (1) It is hard to credit their conclusions on either point. . . .
. . . As a Canadian long engaged in this debate–legal and social–as well as in the care of those with chronic conditions I thus find their arguments incomplete and their conclusions inaccurate. . .
Abstract:Religious considerations and language do not typically belong in the professional advice rendered by a doctor to a patient. Among the rationales mounted by Greenblum and Hubbard in support of that conclusion is that religious considerations and language are incompatible with the role of doctors as public officials.1 Much as I agree with their conclusion, I take issue with this particular aspect of their analysis. It seems based on a mischaracterisation of what societal role doctors fulfil, qua doctors. What obliges doctors to communicate by means of content that is expressed in public reason-based language is not that they are public officials. Doctors as doctors are not necessarily public officials. Rather, doctors have such obligations, because they are professionals. Unlike public officials doctors are part of a profession that is to a significant extent self-governing. This holds true for all professions. The …
Responding to religious patients: why physicians have no business doing theology. Jake Greenblum Ryan K Hubbard Journal of Medical Ethics 2019; – Published Online First: 20 Jun 2019. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2019-105452
Abstract In an article in this journal, Christopher Cowley argues that we have ‘misunderstood the special nature of medicine, and have misunderstood the motivations of the conscientious objectors’. We have not. It is Cowley who has misunderstood the role of personal values in the profession of medicine. We argue that there should be better protections for patients from doctors’ personal values and there should be more severe restrictions on the right to conscientious objection, particularly in relation to assisted dying. We argue that eligible patients could be guaranteed access to medical services that are subject to conscientious objections by: (1) removing a right to conscientious objection; (2) selecting candidates into relevant medical specialities or general practice who do not have objections; (3) demonopolizing the provision of these services away from the medical profession.
Abstract In a recent (2015) Bioethics editorial, Udo Schuklenk argues against allowing Canadian doctors to conscientiously object to any new euthanasia procedures approved by Parliament. In this he follows Julian Savulescu’s 2006 BMJ paper which argued for the removal of the conscientious objection clause in the 1967 UK Abortion Act. Both authors advance powerful arguments based on the need for uniformity of service and on analogies with reprehensible kinds of personal exemption. In this article I want to defend the practice of conscientious objection in publicly-funded healthcare systems (such as those of Canada and the UK), at least in the area of abortion and end-of-life care, without entering either of the substantive moral debates about the permissibility of either. My main claim is that Schuklenk and Savulescu have misunderstood the special nature of medicine, and have misunderstood the motivations of the conscientious objectors. However, I acknowledge Schuklenk’s point about differential access to lawful services in remote rural areas, and I argue that the health service should expend more to protect conscientious objection while ensuring universal access.
Abstract We describe a number of conscientious objection cases in a liberal Western democracy. These cases strongly suggest that the typical conscientious objector does not object to unreasonable, controversial professional services—involving torture, for instance—but to the provision of professional services that are both uncontroversially legal and that patients are entitled to receive. We analyse the conflict between these patients’ access rights and the conscientious objection accommodation demanded by monopoly providers of such healthcare services. It is implausible that professionals who voluntarily join a profession should be endowed with a legal claim not to provide services that are within the scope of the profession’s practice and that society expects them to provide. We discuss common counterarguments to this view and reject all of them.
Extract The very idea that we ought to countenance conscientious objection in any profession is objectionable. Nobody forces anyone to become a professional. It is a voluntary choice. A conscientious objector in medicine is not dissimilar to a taxi driver who joins a taxi company that runs a fleet of mostly combustion engine cars and who objects on grounds of conscience to drive those cars due to environmental concerns.
Extract Why am I an atheist? Why do I think it is important to speak out against the harmful consequences of religious interpretations of the world and of our place in it? In this essay, I argue not only that we have no good reason to believe that a good, all-powerful, all-knowing God exists, but also that organizations and institutions campaigning in the name of God are frequently working toward preventing desirable societal progress in a number of crucial areas affecting our daily lives.