1 July, 2012
Covering the period from 1 May to 30 June, 2012
1. By Region/Country
Visit the Project News/Blog for details.
A Global Charter of
Conscience has been drafted and published, "by people of
many faiths and none, politicians of many persuasions, academics and NGOs,
all committed to a partnership on behalf of 'freedom of thought, conscience
and religion' for people of all faiths and none."
Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 2012, a private member's bill rejected by the
South Australia House of Assembly, included a
protection of conscience provision that protected
euthanasia practitioners from civil and criminal liability, it did not
include this protection for conscientious objectors.
A judge of the British Columbia Supreme Court has struck down
sections of the Criminal Code prohibiting physician assisted suicide and
euthanasia, given the Government of Canada one year to draft a law allowing
the procedures, and granted a woman with ALS a "constitutional exemption"
that will allow her to have a court authorize assisted suicide or euthanasia
in her case in the interim. [Ruling]
Meanwhile, the Quebec Minister of Health, Minister of Justice and Attorney
General of Quebec, are trying to determine how to allow assisted suicide and
euthanasia in the province, though the procedures are criminal offences in
In contrast, the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians has rejected a
recommendation from a Quebec legislative committee that euthanasia and
physician assisted suicide be legalized. The CSPCP
statement indicates the probability that conflicts
of conscience will arise among health care professionals if the procedures
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has released a 12 page
Pastoral Letter on Freedom of Conscience and Religion. The document emphasizes that freedom of conscience may be
acknowledged by state authority, but state authority does not create it.
It recommends four strategies: affirmation of the role of
religion in the public square, upholding a healthy relationship between
Church and stated, forming conscience according to truth, and protecting the
right to conscientious objection.
The German Medical Association has acknowledged and apologized for
the participation of German physicians, including "leading members of
the medical community," in Nazi programs of forced sterilization,
euthanasia, and human experimentation. [Washington
Post] The statement should give pause to those who believe
that physicians should be forced to comply with the ethical norms of a
predominant medical or ethical establishment that contradict their moral
or ethical beliefs.
The Chair of the New Zealand Medical Association has stated that the
Association would continue to be opposed to euthanasia even if the procedure
Despite claims that 80% of the British population supports euthanasia and
assisted suicide, and that 40% of physicians do so, the British Medical
Association has voted against supporting a euthanasia bill being proposed in
the Scots parliament. Strong views were expressed by those on opposite
sides of the issue.
The chairman of the Healthcare Reference Group of
Britain's Catholic bishops' conference, has warned that a
draft General Medical Council guideline on personal beliefs and
medical practice is likely to produce an "atmosphere of fear"
among physicians who are religious believers. The General Medical
Council is the state agency that regulates the medical profession. [Project
submission to the GMC]
Britain's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has
directed the National Health Service (NHS) to provide artificial
reproduction at public expense to homosexual couples and to women up to
the age of 42. While the provision of such services is
morally controversial, Britain's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act
protection of conscience clause that prevents anyone having an
objection to a service provided from being compelled to participate in
Protection of conscience laws have been
passed in Arizona [SB
1365] and Kanas [SB62].
A federal judge in Tampa, Florida has ruled that a rape complainant
who was a prisoner can sue the Hillsborough County Sheriff because a guard,
citing religious belief, refused to give her a prescribed morning after
A former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and a professor at
Harvard Medical School are urging that American physicians practice civil
disobedience by refusing to obey laws that block access to abortion and
Today] What is remarkable is that the authors appear to be
appealing to physicians to exercise freedom of conscience in support of
abortion and contraception, while denying the legitimacy of the exercise of
freedom of conscience by physicians and others opposed to such services.
New York Times article outlines the controversy concerning
the morning after pill over whether or not the drug may have an
embryocidal effect by interfering with implantation. Richard Doerflinger, associate director of
the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities for the United States Conference
of Catholic Bishops, said that he would be "relieved" if the drug did
not affect implantation, but did not believe that the issue had been
The controversy over the federal
Department of Health and Human Services
regulation that forces employers to
provide employee insurance for contraception,
embryocides and surgical sterilization appears
to be escalating.
ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, the
federal health care reform law that is the basis for the regulation.
The decision does not deal with the regulation
43 Catholic dioceses, organizations and and institutions have filed 12
lawsuits against the U.S. federal government to stop the regulation.
Civil actions have also been filed by Legatus, a
national organization of Catholic business
leaders, and the Weingartz Supply Company, a
Michigan retailer, the President of which is a
member of Legatus.
The Catholic Health Association of the United States, which first
responded favourably to a purported accommodation by the administration, has now
stated its opposition to the regulation. However, some others opposed to the mandate believe
that what the CHA suggests by way of accommodation is only marginally better
than what the administration has offered, and thus unsatisfactory.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops
maintains that the regulation is unlawful and
have asked Catholics in the United States to
participate in a "Fortnight for Freedom" in
defence of freedom of conscience and religion
from 21 June to 4 July, 2012. A
bulletin insert about freedom of conscience has been made available to parishes in the
United States. The Conference supports freedom of conscience for
individual employers in private business as well
as identifiably Catholic organizations.
The Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, has announced that
it will cease providing health insurance
coverage for students and will no longer require them to have health insurance. The
decision was made because the University refuses to comply with the
Resistance to the regulation is not limited to the Catholic Church.
A non-profit, non-partisan, public policy advocacy organization called Conscience
Cause has been formed to advocate for freedom of conscience in the
United States. The Collegium Aesculapium
Foundation, an association of Mormon physicians and
health care professionals, is opposed to the regulation, as is the 16,000 member
Christian Medical Association, which calls the plan
"unlawful and unprecedented."
Papual New Guinea
Catholic Bishops in Papua New Guinea state that their schools will
not comply with a government policy requiring the distribution of
condoms to students. The Episcopal Conference is prepared to
defend its decision in court should the government try to enforce
Senate Bill 2865, a controversial Reproductive Health bill, will progess
to the amendment stage in the Philippines Congress.
House Bill 4244 or the
Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health And Population And Development
Act Of 2011, is the House counterpart of the Senate bill. The latter includes provisions problematic with respect to
freedom of conscience.
A Swedish health authority has ruled that physicians must facilitate
abortions if patients request them even if they are doubtful about the
mental stability of the patient. The case clearly did not involve conscientious objection to
abortion and appears to have been complicated by concerns about violation of
patient confidentiality. However, it is likely that the ruling will be
cited by those who wish to force physicians to refer for or otherwise
facilitate abortion or other morally contested procedures.
A plan put forward by the parliament of the Swiss canton of Vaud to
oblige nursing homes to accept assisted suicide has been approved by the
electorate. The new law is supported by associations of Vaud nursing
homes and physicians.
It does not appear that a rejection of both positions in favour of a ban on
assisted suicide was considered, nor does it appear that there was a
discussion of the possibility of conscientious objection.
2. News Items
All news items are now on the Project
News/Blog, archived by country. They can also be
searched by topic using the blog search box.
3. Recent Postings
All recent postings are now on the
Project News/Blog, archived by year and month.
4. Action Items
The Project will post notices of conferences
that are explore and support the principle freedom of conscience, including the
legitimate role of moral or religious conviction in shaping law and public
policy in pluralist states or societies.
6. Publications of Interest
The Case for Kidney Donation Before End-of-Life Care.
Paul E. Morrissey, The American Journal of Bioethics Vol. 12, Iss. 6,
Brooke Winner, M.D., et al,
Effectiveness of Long-Acting Reversible Contraception. N Engl J Med 2012;
Card, Robert F. Is there no alternative? Conscientious
objection by medical students. Med Ethics
From the Project
Conscience Project Submission to the General Medical Council of the United
Kingdom Re: Personal beliefs and medical practice: A draft for