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Protection of Conscience Project

www.consciencelaws.org

Service, not Servitude
Periodicals & Papers

2016

 Brauer SG, Yoon JD, Curlin FA  US primary care physicians' opinions about conscientious refusal: a national vignette experiment.  J Med Ethics. 2016 Feb;42(2):80-4. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2015-102782. Epub 2015 Jul 1.

  • Abstract: Objective | Previous research has found that physicians are divided on whether they are obligated to provide a treatment to which they object and whether they should refer patients in such cases. The present study compares several possible scenarios in which a physician objects to a treatment that a patient requests, in order to better characterise physicians' beliefs about what responses are appropriate.

    Design: We surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1504 US primary care physicians using an experimentally manipulated vignette in which a patient requests a clinical intervention to which the patient's physician objects. We used multivariate logistic regression models to determine how vignette and respondent characteristics affected respondent's judgements.

    Results:
    Among eligible respondents, the response rate was 63% (896/1427). When faced with an objection to providing treatment, referring the patient was the action judged most appropriate (57% indicated it was appropriate), while few physicians thought it appropriate to provide treatment despite one's objection (15%). The most religious physicians were more likely than the least religious physicians to support refusing to accommodate the patient's request (38% vs 22%, OR=1.75; 95% CI 1.06 to 2.86).

    Conclusions:
    This study indicates that US physicians believe it is inappropriate to provide an intervention that violates one's personal or professional standards. Referring seems to be physicians' preferred way of responding to requests for interventions to which physicians object.

Card RF.  Reasons, reasonability and establishing conscientious objector status in medicine.  J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2016-103792

  • Abstract:  This paper builds upon previous work in which I argue that we should assess a provider's reasons for his or her objection before granting a conscientious exemption. For instance, if the medical professional's reasoned basis involves an empirical mistake, an accommodation is not warranted. This article poses and begins to address several deep questions about the workings of what I call a reason-giving view: What standard should we use to assess reasons? What policy should we adopt in order to evaluate the reasons offered by medical practitioners in support of their objections? I argue for a reasonability standard to perform the essential function of assessing reasons, and I offer considerations in support of a policy establishing conscientious objector status in medicine.

Christie T, Sloan J, Dahlgren D, Konging F.  Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada: An Ethical Analysis of Conscientious and Religious Objections.  BioéthiqueOnLine, 2016, 5/14

  • Abstract - Background: The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) has ruled that the federal government is required to remove the provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada that prohibit medical assistance in dying (MAID). The SCC has stipulated that individual physicians will not be required to provide MAID should they have a religious or conscientious objection. Therefore, the pending legislative response will have to balance the rights of the patients with the rights of physicians, other health care professionals, and objecting institutions.

    Objective: The objective of this paper is to critically assess, within the Canadian context, the moral probity of individual or institutional objections to MAID that are for either religious or conscientious reasons.

    Methods: Deontological ethics and the Doctrine of Double Effect.

    Results: The religious or conscientious objector has conflicting duties, i.e., a duty to respect the “right to life” (section 7 of the Charter) and a duty to respect the tenets of his or her religious or conscientious beliefs (protected by section 2 of the Charter).

    Conclusion: The discussion of religious or conscientious objections to MAID has not explicitly considered the competing duties of the conscientious objector. It has focussed on the fact that a conscientious objection exists and has ignored the normative question of whether the duty to respect one’s conscience or religion supersedes the duty to respect the patient’s right to life.

Clarke S.  Conscientious objection in healthcare, referral and the military analogy. J Med Ethics 2016;0:1–4. doi:10.1136/medethics-2016-103777

  • Abstract:  An analogy is sometimes drawn between the proper treatment of conscientious objectors in healthcare and in military contexts. In this paper, I consider an aspect of this analogy that has not, to my knowledge, been considered in debates about conscientious objection in healthcare. In the USA and elsewhere, tribunals have been tasked with the responsibility of recommending particular forms of alternative service for conscientious objectors. Military conscripts who have a conscientious objection to active military service, and whose objections are deemed acceptable, are required either to serve the military in a non-combat role, or assigned some form of community service that does not contribute to the effectiveness of the military. I argue that consideration of the role that military tribunals have played in determining the appropriate form of alternative service for conscripts who are conscientious objectors can help us to understand how conscientious objectors in healthcare ought to be treated. Additionally, I show that it helps us to address the vexed issue of whether or not conscientious objectors who refuse to provide a service requested by a patient should be required to refer that patient to another healthcare professional.

Cuceu M,  PontikesT.  The Physician and Community of Faithful in the Integrated Care of the Mentally Ill: An Orthodox Christian Discussion of the Physician’s Moral and Professional Obligations. Christ Bioeth (2016) 22 (3): 301-314 doi:10.1093/cb/cbw010

  • Abstract:  This article presents the case of a Romanian Orthodox Christian patient in the United States suffering from bipolar disorder. The patient had no family in the United States, and a community of parishioners from the Romanian Orthodox Church, including one of the authors, Mariana Cuceu (MC), cared for him after he was discharged from a psychiatric ward. The case serves as a starting point for exploring the duty of physicians not only to avoid harm but to do good, the importance of coordinating care for such patients and attending to their religious and spiritual needs, as well as the role of the community of Orthodox Christian faithful in responding to the command that we love one another.

Jones DA, An Unholy Mess: Why 'The Sanctity of Life Principle' Should Be Jettisoned.  The New Biothics, Vol. 22, 2016, Issue 3.

Abstract:  The aim of this article is to present an account of an important element of medical ethics and law which is widely cited but is often confused. This element is most frequently referred to as ‘the principle of the sanctity of life’, and it is often assumed that this language has a religious provenance. However, the phrase is neither rooted in the traditions it purports to represent nor is it used consistently in contemporary discourse. Understood as the name of an established ‘principle’ the ‘sanctity of life’ is virtually an invention of the late twentieth century. The language came to prominence as the label of a position that was being rejected: it is the name of a caricature. Hence there is no locus classicus for a definition of the terms and different authors freely apply the phrase to divergent and contradictory positions. Appeal to this ‘principle’ thus serves only to perpetuate confusion. This language is best jettisoned in favour of clearer and more traditional ethical concepts.

Liaschenko J, Peter E.  Fostering Nurses' Moral Agency and Moral Identity: The Importance of Moral Community.  The Hastings Center Report, Volume 46, Issue S1, September/October 2016, Pages S18–S21.

  • Abstract: It may be the case that the most challenging moral problem of the twenty-first century will be the relationship between the individual moral agent and the practices and institutions in which the moral agent is embedded. In this paper, we continue the efforts that one of us, Joan Liaschenko, first called for in 1993, that of using feminist ethics as a lens for viewing the relationship between individual nurses as moral agents and the highly complex institutions in which they do the work of nursing. Feminist ethics, with its emphasis on the inextricable relationship between ethics and politics, provides a useful lens to understand the work of nurses in context. Using Margaret Urban Walker's and Hilde Lindemann's concepts of identity, relationships, values, and moral agency, we argue that health care institutions can be moral communities and profoundly affect the work and identity and, therefore, the moral agency of all who work within those structures, including nurses. Nurses are not only shaped by these organizations but also have the power to shape them. Because moral agency is intimately connected to one's identity, moral identity work is essential for nurses to exercise their moral agency and to foster moral community in health care organizations. We first provide a brief history of nursing's morally problematic relationship with institutions and examine the impact institutional master narratives and corporatism exert today on nurses’ moral identities and agency. We close by emphasizing the significance of ongoing dialogue in creating and sustaining moral communities, repairing moral identities, and strengthening moral agency.

Napier S.  Why Are Religious Reasons Dismissed? Euthanasia, Basic Goods, and Gratuitous Evil. Christ Bioeth (2016) 22 (3): 276-300 doi:10.1093/cb/cbw012

  • Abstract:  Many proponents of euthanasia eschew appeals to religious premises as good reasons for thinking that human life has intrinsic worth. The reasons offered are that religious reasons do not meet some theory-neutral epistemic standard. My first argument is to show that pro-euthanasia arguments fail to meet those same standards. In order to avoid this incoherence, the rejection of religious reasons is a function of thinking that such reasons are simply false. Arguing against religious belief has typically fallen to the evidential argument from evil. My second argument is to show that the argument from evil must hold to a basic goods account of human life. Such an account is contrary to the view of human life held by most euthanasia proponents. So, euthanasia proponents who reject religious belief on the basis of an argument from evil must hold to a contradictory view of human worth. One cannot both be a euthanasia proponent and reject arguments against euthanasia (that are based in part on religious premises). I explore ways to resolve this tension, but none save pro-euthanasia arguments.

 Oderberg DS, Further clarity on cooperation and morality.  J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2016-103476

  • Abstract:  I explore the increasingly important issue of cooperation in immoral actions, particularly in connection with healthcare. Conscientious objection, especially as pertains to religious freedom in healthcare, has become a pressing issue in the light of the US Supreme Court judgement in Hobby Lobby. Section ‘Moral evaluation using the basic principles of cooperation’ outlines a theory of cooperation inspired by Catholic moral theologians such as those cited by the court. The theory has independent plausibility and is at least worthy of serious consideration—in part because it is an instance of double-effect reasoning, which is also independently plausible despite its association with moral theology. Section ‘Case study: Burwell v. Hobby Lobby’ examines Hobby Lobby in detail. Even if the judgement was correct in that case the reasoning was not, as it involved applying a ‘mere sincerity’ test to the cooperation question. The mere sincerity test leads to absurd consequences, whereas a reasonableness test applied using the theory of cooperation defended here would avoid absurdity. Section ‘A question of remoteness: “accommodations” and opt-outs’ explores the post-Hobby Lobby problem further, examining opt-outs and accommodations: the Little Sisters of the Poor case shows how opt-outs are misunderstood on a mere sincerity test, which the court rightly rejected. Section 'Application to the medical field: Doogan and Wood’ discusses the UK case of Doogan and Wood, concerning participation in abortion. Again, a judicially recognised ethic of cooperation, if it were part of the fabric of legal reasoning in such cases, would have enabled the conscientious objectors in this and similar situations to have their freedom of conscience and religion respected in a way that it currently is not.

Parker JC.  Implications of Christian Truth Claims for Bioethics. Christ Bioeth (2016) 22 (3): 265-275 doi:10.1093/cb/cbw013

  • Abstract: Christian bioethics starts with different metaphysical, epistemological, and teleological assumptions. It starts with God as Creator and Sustainer of the universe who as the second person of the Godhead became incarnate as our Redeemer and Lord. Morality reflects God’s nature and is known through reason and intuition guided by revelation. The end of a Christian bioethics is to discover the way our God intends for us to live and to discover the type of person He intends for us to be in order to live a holy and sanctified life. Christian bioethicists will seek integration among their core beliefs and between their beliefs and actions, and they will bear witness to their beliefs in a world that is not yet redeemed. Each contribution in this issue represents an example of these types of Christian integration. Each bears witness to the fact that a Christian bioethics is different.

Savulescu J, Schuklenk U.  (2016) Doctors Have no Right to Refuse Medical Assistance in Dying, Abortion or Contraception. Bioethics. doi:10.1111/bioe.12288

  • 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.

Sleasman MJ, Rutecki GW.  A Christian Physician: Combining Conscience, Philanthropia, and Calling. Christ Bioeth (2016) 22 (3): 340-362

  • Abstract: When physicians today appeal to “conscience,” it has been alleged such exercises pejoratively reflect “conscience without consequence” as contemporary practitioners are said to be insulated from the consequences of such decisions. It has also been implied these physicians avoid traditional professional responsibilities—including providing charity care and making house or night calls. The assertions demand clarification. Fundamentally, what traits constitute an integrated professionalism specific to Christian physicians? Historical evidence verifies sanctity-of-life affirmations by Christian physicians throughout Church history. However, surveying Christian medical practices in the initial centuries of the Common Era, and more recently in the United States, supports integration of conscience with philanthropy and a rigorous definition of a medical vocation. These suggest there may be deterioration in a holistic commitment to medicine in the United States. Reclaiming an integrated professional paradigm—wherein conscience, philanthropia, and vocation are combined—is essential to an authentic contemporary witness.

Stulberg DB, Jackson RA, Freedman LR.  Referrals for Services Prohibited In Catholic Health Care Facilities. Perspect Sex Repro H, 48: 111–117. doi:10.1363/48e10216

  • Abstract: 
    • Context | Catholic hospitals control a growing share of health care in the United States and prohibit many common reproductive services, including ones related to sterilization, contraception, abortion and fertility. Professional ethics guidelines recommend that clinicians who deny patients reproductive services for moral or religious reasons provide a timely referral to prevent patient harm. Referral practices in Catholic hospitals, however, have not been explored. 
    • Methods | Twenty-seven obstetrician-gynecologists who were currently working or had worked in Catholic facilities participated in semistructured interviews in 2011–2012. Interviews explored their experiences with and perspectives on referral practices at Catholic hospitals. The sample was religiously and geographically diverse. Referral-related themes were identified in interview transcripts using qualitative analysis.
    •  Results | Obstetrician-gynecologists reported a range of practices and attitudes in regard to referrals for prohibited services. In some Catholic hospitals, physicians reported that administrators and ethicists encouraged or tolerated the provision of referrals. In others, hospital authorities actively discouraged referrals, or physicians kept referrals hidden. Patients in need of referrals for abortion were given less support than those seeking referrals for other prohibited services. Physicians received mixed messages when hospital leaders wished to retain services for financial reasons, rather than have staff refer patients elsewhere. Respondents felt referrals were not always sufficient to meet the needs of low-income patients or those with urgent medical conditions.
    •  Conclusions | Some Catholic hospitals make it difficult for obstetrician-gynecologists to provide referrals for comprehensive reproductive services.

Wilkinson D.  Rationing conscience.  J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2016-103795

  • Abstract:  Decisions about allocation of limited healthcare resources are frequently controversial. These decisions are usually based on careful analysis of medical, scientific and health economic evidence. Yet, decisions are also necessarily based on value judgements. There may be differing views among health professionals about how to allocate resources or how to evaluate existing evidence. In specific cases, professionals may have strong personal views (contrary to professional or societal norms) that treatment should or should not be provided. Could these disagreements rise to the level of a conscientious objection? If so, should conscientious objections to existing allocation decisions be accommodated? In the first part of this paper, I assess whether resource allocation could be a matter of conscience. I analyse conceptual and normative models of conscientious objection and argue that rationing could be a matter for conscience. I distinguish between negative and positive forms: conscientious non-treatment and conscientious treatment. In the second part of the paper, I identify distinctive challenges for conscientious objections to resource allocation. Such objections are almost always inappropriate.