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Protection of Conscience Project

Service, not Servitude

Service, not servitude.

Freedom of conscience in health care

The Protection of Conscience Project supports health care workers who want to provide the best care  for their patients without violating their own personal and professional integrity.  It is a non-denominational, non-profit initiative supported by an Advisory Board and team

Welcome to our website. 

Use the Project website  and blog to research issues and find resources to support freedom of conscience in health care.

News & Blog

L’euthanasie au Canada: une mise en garde

TranslatorRene Leiva, Margaret M. Cottle, Catherine Ferrier, Sheila Rutledge Harding, Timothy Lau, Terence McQuiston, John F. Scott* Nous sommes des médecins canadiens consternés et concernés par les impacts – sur les patients, sur les médecins, sur la pratique médicale – … Continue reading


Euthanasia in Canada: a Cautionary Tale

TranslatorRene Leiva, Margaret M. Cottle, Catherine Ferrier, Sheila Rutledge Harding, Timothy Lau, Terence McQuiston, John F. Scott* We are Canadian physicians who are dismayed and concerned by the impact  – on patients, on doctors, on medical practice – of the universal … Continue reading


Canadian Medical Association and euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada

TranslatorCritical review of CMA approach to changes in policy and law Sean Murphy* Abstract English | Français | Español | Deutsche | Português | bahasa Indonesia In December, 2013, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) Board of Directors decided to shape … Continue reading


Website Wordbites

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Whether humans are "special" -- sometimes referred to as human exceptionalism or uniqueness -- and, therefore, deserve "special respect" is a controversial and central question in bioethics, and how we answer it will have a major impact on many important ethical issues. . . Margaret Somerville, Preserving Humanity

Freudians have said there is no conscience but only superego, behaviorists that there is no conscience but only inhibitions. Anthropologists have said there is no conscience but only mores, sociologists that there is no conscience but only socialization. Now at last come those Johnnie-come-latelies, the postmodernists, telling the students that there is no conscience but only narratives. . . J. Budziszewski, Handling Issues of Conscience

In modern heath care the role of the physician is at risk of being reduced to becoming a mere tool of the patient's will. The doctor's role will be just to provide services that patients demand. Autonomy of the patient trumps all. This view impoverishes our profession, degrades doctors to mere technicians and will accelerate the moral wasting disease presently plaguing Canadian health care . . . Dr. Larry Reynolds, Personal Beliefs and Professional Duties: Maintaining Your Integrity

Ethical differences between one theory of bioethics and another may be quite as dramatic as doctrinal differences between religions, though, like religions, there are also similarities. Problems for ethical minorities arise when one version of bioethics becomes predominant, and its practitioners attain positions of influence and power in government, academic and professional circles . . . Sean Murphy, Establishment Bioethics

It was quite a surprise. . . to be informed by an eminent professor of obstetrics and gynaecology . . as a Roman Catholic specialist, that "there is no place for to practice within the National Health Service . . ." [I]n order to stay in the specialities in the United kingdom, I would have had to compromise a conscientiously held abhorrence to the direct taking of human life. I refused and as a consequence became unemployed . . . and had to leave country, home and family in order to practise my chosen specialty in full freedom. . . R. L. Walley, FRCSC, FRCOG, MPH,  Question of Conscience

An effort is also underway by pro-abortion advocates. . . to have the United Nations declare access to abortion a universal human right. Healthcare professionals who, despite such coercion, follow their conscience risk a variety of legal threats. . . .[T]his state of affairs has caused deep concern for many healthcare professionals . . . Margaret Somerville, Respect for Conscience Must be a Social Value

[T]he people who would be asked to carry out the terminations of pregnancy are the gynaecologists in this country, and as I've mentioned already, you know, for religious, moral and ethical reasons most of my colleagues would be extremely unhappy to be asked to do so. In fact most, I am sure, would not do it . . . Testimony of Dr. Declan Keane, Conscientious Objection in Ireland

Janet Murdock lived in Missoula with the four physicians, who, citing their "professional obligation to relieve suffering," convinced a judge to legalize assisted suicide in Montana. Where were they in Janet Murdock's 'hour of need'? . . . Sean Murphy, The Case of the Disappearing Plaintiffs

Initially, when [Oregon's assisted suicide law] was designed, the assumption was that physicians would be the first ones to explore PAS with patients," . . . "but in reality, nurses are usually the ones in the line of fire. Patients often feel nurses understand their wishes for good quality of life and good quality of death, too." . . . Carrie Farella, Assisted Suicide: What Role for Nurses?

[W]hen professional associations are convinced that an act is seriously wrong - even if it is legal - one finds them willing to refuse all forms of direct and indirect participation. . . The GMC acted on this principle when it disciplined a physician who provided information about the sale of organs but did not actually engage in the practice [and] in recent draft guidance on assisted suicide.  Conscientious objectors who refuse to refer or delegate for morally contested treatments act on the same principle, and it would be hypocritical if the GMC were to discipline them for doing so . . . Project Submission to the General Medical Council (United Kingdom)

The idea that, in assuming some function -- some career, for instance -- I resign my conscience to the institution or to the state is perhaps the single most pernicious notion in human history. . . Crispin Sartwell, The Fundamental Right to Refuse

The rights of freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief are fundamental. The ability to exercise conscientious objection is a keystone of democracy. All of us should have the right to hold a belief and not be compelled by the state to act contrary to that conviction. It is the difference between the free society and the one subject to tyranny. . . George Cardinal Pell

The major thrust of Islamic critique of the Declaration, however, is its secularism and its implied hostility to divergent philosophical or religious ideas. . . Perhaps the sore point in the secular human rights discourse, as far as Muslim theoreticians of rights language are concerned, is the total dismissal of anything religious as being an impediment to the modern development of human rights . . . Abdulaziz Sachedina, The Clash of Universalisms: Religious and Secular in Human Rights

[T]he arguments of Professors Cook and Dickens for mandatory referral are unsupported and even contradicted by their own legal and ethical references. Regulatory officials with the power to enforce the views of Cook and Dickens are unlikely to discover this in the pages of the Journal, since, by editorial fiat, the discussion was terminated with the publication of their 'final word' on the subject . . . Sean Murphy, Postscript for the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada

Does man have any right to heal at all, and if he does, are there any limitations on how it may be accomplished? Is every action done in the name of therapy justified, solely because a physician performs it? . . . Daniel Eisenberg, M.D., The Role of the Physician in Jewish Law

This joint statement deals primarily with conflicts between the person receiving care, or his or her proxy, and care providers. It offers guidance for the development of policies for preventing and resolving ethical conflicts about the appropriateness of initiating, continuing, withholding or withdrawing care or treatment. It outlines the basic principles to be taken into account in the development of such policies as well as the steps that should be followed in resolving conflicts . . . Joint Statement on Preventing and Resolving Ethical Conflicts

When professional codes of conduct allude to 'personal values', and workplace controversies about issues of conscience are characterized as 'conflicts of values", it is past time to ask what meaning is conveyed by such terms. The author holds that values language "obscures moral discourse rather than furthers it." . . . Iain Benson, Are "Values" the Same as Virtues?

[T]he Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee asserts that it is "deeply concerned about the increasing and largely unregulated occurrence" of the exercise of freedom of conscience in Europe.  According to the Committee, too many European citizens in positions of responsibility refuse to do what they believe to be gravely wrong. The Committee recommends that member states adopt "comprehensive and clear regulations" to address this problem . . . Project Submission to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

The question as to when a human being begins is strictly a scientific question, and should be answered by human embryologists-not by philosophers, bioethicists, theologians, politicians, x-ray technicians, movie stars, or obstetricians and gynecologists. The question as to when a human person begins is a philosophical question . . . Dianne N. Irving, When do Human Beings Begin?

This edition of Triple Helix highlights three possible changes in British Law that could lead to Christians receiving criminal convictions . . . Peter Saunders, Criminalizing Christian Behaviour- legally enforced political correctness

[T]he "implicit faith" of atheism or agnosticism when systematized in public education is just the domination of public education by one form of (largely implicit) faiths. But once we see this we see how wrong it is for implicit faiths to trump explicit ones. All are faiths. Why should the opinions of those who don't know or refuse to articulate what they believe dominate those who can say what they believe in and why they think it matters? Silence about the most important things can be either wisdom or cowardice . . . Iain Benson, There are No Secular "Unbelievers"

The key to understanding conscience rights correctly is to recognize that there is a world of difference between a law that makes me do something I don't want to do, and a law that makes me do something I have an obligation not to do . . . Melissa Moschella, Taking (Conscience) Rights Seriously


For Students

. . . His face was flaming red, the veins in his neck bulged out from the starched collar of his shirt. He tore into me for my insolence . . . Who did I think I was, he told me?  . . . I snapped to attention at his parting words: "I could fail you for this!" Med School 101

Conscience issues in medical and nursing school.
Topics include:

• identifying objectionable procedures

• articulating the basis for your objections

• establishing the extent of your objections

• knowing the science

• distinguishing between philosophy and science

• university and professional policies

• human rights and freedom of information

• practical pointers

Access For Students here.



































Conferences, Symposia

Conscientious Objection in Practice
A conference for doctors, nurses and allied healthcare professionals
29th September 2018, Tullamore Court Hotel, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, Eire
Hosted by Doctors for Life Ireland

Calls for Papers