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Protection of Conscience Project

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Service, not Servitude

Policy Positions

Catholic Health Association of British Columbia

Creating an Ethical Framework in the Workplace

November, 2000

Reproduced with the permission of the Catholic Health Association of B.C.


One of our objectives in Catholic health is to assist personnel to work within an ethical framework, characterized in the Health Ethics Guide, published by the Catholic Health Association of Canada. The Catholic Health Association of British Columbia has identified the need for leadership in the are of values conflict in the workplace and the need for the development of a framework for ethical reflection. We need to encourage personnel to examine how their moral lives integrate with their professional lives. We believe that doing so may lead to the creation of environments where more open discussion can happen.

We believe that the discussion of issues of conscience needs to become an accepted part of organizational life in health care. Administrators and management teams need to work to ensure that such discussions become part of the culture of the workplace. These dialogues are essential to allow health teams to work well in the workplace. While values conflicts are inevitable, we need to create supportive environments where dialogue can take place without fear of recrimination. We believe that allowing personnel to engage in such conversations will result in stronger teams that are better able to care for those we serve. This excerpt from the Health Ethics Guide, in the chapter on "Governance and Administration", addresses matters of conscience:

"No one may be required to participate in activity that in conscience the person considers to be immoral. While continuing to fulfill its mission, the organization is to provide for and to facilitate the exercise of conscientious objection without threat of reprisals. The exercise of conscientious objection must not put the person receiving care at risk of harm or abandonment."

CHABC believes that respect must be extended to all health care workers for the informed choices they make in providing care. At the same time, we must continue to adhere to the missions of Catholic health care to provide compassionate, professional care to every individual, regardless of religious beliefs. Health care personnel should not be forced to act against a deeply held moral conviction and religious belief that all human life is sacred and inviolable. Not only would this create inner conflict for them, it would create a conflict with the employer with resulting negative impact on service to patients and residents. believes that respect must be extended to all health care workers for the informed choices they make in providing care. At the same time, we must continue to adhere to the missions of Catholic health care to provide compassionate, professional care to every individual, regardless of religious beliefs. Health care personnel should not be forced to act against a deeply held moral conviction and religious belief that all human life is sacred and inviolable. Not only would this create inner conflict for them, it would create a conflict with the employer with resulting negative impact on service to patients and residents.

In Canada, there is currently no legislation to protect the rights of workers in matters of moral conviction and religious beliefs. There is, however, a bill that has been introduced to amend the Criminal Code (Bill S-11, sponsored by B.C. Senator Ray Perrault). This Bill proposes to protect the rights of health care providers who refuse to participate in surgical or medical treatments that are contrary to their moral conviction or religious belief recognizing the sacredness of human life, without fear of reprisal or other discriminatory coercion.

CHABC supports Senator Perrault's efforts in this regard. At the same time, we encourage health care personnel to engage in responsible and rational discussions with the appropriate people in their organizations with respect to decisions of conscience. Ideally, it would be best to create non-legislative and non-confrontational opportunities to deal with moral and religious conflicts that may arise in the health care workplace.

We acknowledge CHABC as a source of information for this statement.

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