Doctors for Life Ireland
Doctors for Life Statement on Conscientious Objection
Doctors for Life Ireland
Reproduced with permission
1. The practice of medicine is a service to human dignity and doctors
must adhere to the highest standards of professional competence in treating,
protecting and advocating for patients.
2. In the course of their work on behalf of patients, doctors have the
right not to participate in procedures which, in conscience, they believe to
3. Doctors should not, by action or omission, deliberately shorten a
patient's life. Doctors must respect a patient's fully-informed decision to
refuse life-sustaining treatment or to request withdrawal of medical
4. Doctors have the right to refuse applications for referral for
treatments to which they object in conscience.
5. Doctors have an obligation to provide care in emergencies, even if the
condition results from a procedure to which the doctor has a conscientious
6. Doctors have an obligation to explain the reasons for their
conscientious objection with clarity and courtesy to patients and
colleagues. Patients have a right to see another doctor and to be given
impartial information as to how they can exercise that right.
Irish health care has a long-held tradition of in cases of pregnancy
treating both patients, the expectant mother, and her developing child. We
are concerned with the current legal position which doctors and health care
professionals, who hold an ethical objection to abortion find themselves. It
is our interpretation of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013
that if an expectant mother presents with suicidal ideation and requests
an abortion, as their doctor we are placed in the unenviable position of
collaborating in facilitating that mother to procure that abortion either
directly by sending her for assessment for the abortion or indirectly by
referring her to another clinician who we know will send her for the
abortion- this is despite the wealth of evidence showing that abortion
is extremely detrimental to the mental health of the mother if she is in any
of the at-risk groups (list) and that there is no evidence of any beneficial
effects from abortion. We have a duty as doctors, and health care
professionals, to do what is in the best interests of our patients yet the
law is obliging us to facilitate the killing of one patient and possibly
causing inestimable damage to the other.
The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 in reference
to Conscientious objection outlined the following:
17. (1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3), nothing in this Act shall be
construed as obliging any medical practitioner, nurse or midwife to carry
out, or to assist in carrying out, any medical procedure referred to in
section 7(1) or 9(1) to which he or she has a conscientious objection.
(2) Subsection (1) shall not be construed to affect any duty to
participate in any medical procedure referred to in section 8(1).
(3) A person who has a conscientious objection referred to in subsection
(1) shall make such arrangements for the transfer of care of the pregnant
woman concerned as may be necessary to enable the woman to avail of the
medical procedure concerned.
This is in direct contradiction to Bunreacht na hEireann Article 44.2.1º
: Freedom of conscience and the free profession and practice of religion
are, subject to public order and morality, guaranteed to every citizen.
Doctors for Life Ireland are concerned about implications for healthcare
professionals who wish to exercise their right to conscientious objection.
In formulating this statement, we have been guided by the first principle
of medical practice, primum non nocere (first, do no harm). We have also
drawn on such sources as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the
European Convention on Human Rights, and the codes of medical ethics of the
British General Medical Council, the American Medical Association and the
Medical Council of Ireland. The latter is currently being updated.