Health professionals’ pledge rejects any form of participation in or condoning torture

Sean Murphy*

Physicians for Human Rights is sponsoring a Health Professionals’ Pledge Against Torture that includes statements that signatories will never “participate or condone” torture and support colleagues who “resist orders to torture or inflict harm.”  It also commits signatories to insist that their professional associations support those facing pressure “to participate or condone torture and ill-treatment.”

What is noteworthy is that the pledge is not limited to simply refusing to torture someone, but is a pledge against participation (which would include forms of facilitation like referral) and against condoning the practice.

Replace “torture” with commonly morally contested procedures and it becomes obvious that the ethical position taken by Physicians for Human Rights vis-à-vis torture is identical to the position of many health care professionals who object to practices like euthanasia or abortion for reasons of conscience.

Conscience and Conscientious Objection in Health Care

An ARC Discovery Project, running from 2015 to 2017

Summary of project

Conscientious objection is a central topic in bioethics and is becoming more ever important. This is hardly surprising if we consider the liberal trend in developments of policies about abortion and other bioethical issues worldwide. In recent decades the right to abortion has been granted by many countries, and increasingly many conservative and/or religious doctors are being asked to perform an activity that clashes with their deepest moral and/or religious values.

Debates about conscientious objection are set to become more intense given the increase in medical options which are becoming available or may well be available soon (e.g. embryonic stem cell therapies, genetic selection, human bio-enhancement, sex modification), and given the increasingly multicultural and multi-faith character of Australian society. Not only will doctors conscientiously object to abortion, and to practices commonly acknowledged as morally controversial, but some of them may also object to a wide range of new and even established practices that conflict with their personal values for example, Muslim doctors refusing to examine patients of the opposite sex.

Defining conscientious objection and identifying reliable markers for it, as well as setting the boundaries of legitimate conscientious objection through clear and justifiable principles, are difficult but pressing tasks.

This project advances bioethical debate by producing a philosophically and psychologically informed analysis of conscience, and by applying this to discussions about the legitimate limits to conscientious objection in health care.

 Personnel

Chief Investigator Dr Steve Clarke, Charles Sturt University

Chief Investigator Prof. Jeanette Kennett, Macquarie University

Partner Investigator Prof. Julian Savulescu, University of Oxford

[Full text]

Any objections? Doctors still pressured against following conscience

Catholic News Service

Carol Glatz

ROME (CNS) — When St. John Paul II called for conscientious objection against laws legitimizing abortion and euthanasia 20 years ago, one Catholic doctor never imagined the struggle and sacrifice to carry out that duty would last for so long.

Dr. Robert Walley, a British obstetrician and gynecologist who founded and heads MaterCare International, organized the group’s very first world conference in Rome in 2001 on the question of conscience in maternal healthcare. And now, 14 years later, “the problem hasn’t gone away, it’s still here.”

To address the ongoing dilemma, MaterCare held its 10th international conference in Rome Aug. 31-Sept. 4 to look at the problem of discrimination against Catholic obstetricians, gynecologists, midwives, medical students and health care staff when they object to training and procedures that go against their beliefs. Part of the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, MaterCare was founded in 1995 to serve mothers and their children.

“In 1973, I had three choices” when he practiced under Britain’s state-run National Health System: do the abortions, change his specialization or leave the country, Walley said. “So we left and went to Canada” to start life over with his wife and seven children to support.

While he was “prepared to accept that cross,” he said he felt he did not receive enough support or encouragement from the church and feels medical professionals who become conscientious objectors are still “basically on our own.” . . . [Full text]

Doctors, midwives revolt over mandatory abortions

Legal center files complaint with U.N. over requirement to participate

World Net Daily

Bob Unruh

A formal complaint has been submitted to the United Nations against Sweden over its practice of requiring physicians and others to perform abortions.

While there was an uproar in the United States and a successful court challenge to President Obama’s plans to require people to pay into a fund for abortions, in Sweden officials have carried the mandate much further, according to the complaint submitted by the European Center for Law and Justice.

Director Gregor Puppinck wrote to Heiner Bielefeldt, special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, at the office of the high commission on human rights at the U.N.

The victims are represented by several named midwives, doctors and pediatricians, he explained. . . [Full text]

Lawyers to UN: Forcing nurses to assist abortions violates international law

 Parallel meeting in Geneva on 12 March

News Release

Alliance Defending Freedom

ADF International will hold a parallel event at the 28th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva Thursday to call upon European nations to respect the fundamental right to freedom of conscience within the medical profession. Two ADF International lawyers will speak at the event and will be available for media interviews.

ADF International, in coalition with Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers, will urge the UN Human Rights Council and the international community at large to confront the lack of protections for freedom of conscience in several European countries. Although this fundamental human right is protected under international and European human rights law, a growing trend – particularly within the medical profession – is to override it. As a result, doctors, nurses, and midwives are being fired for refusing to perform or partake in abortion procedures.

“No one deserves to  be denied a job simply because they are pro-life,” said Ruben Navarro, ADF International’s director of UN Advocacy-Geneva, who will speak at the event. “International law makes it clear that being pro-abortion cannot be a requirement for employment, nor can medical facilities force nurses and midwives with a conscience objection to assist with practices that can lead to an abortion.”

At the event, Ruth Nordström, president of Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers and lead counsel in the case Grimmark vs. Jönköping City Council, will discuss the lack of conscience protections under Swedish law.

“Sweden has failed to develop a comprehensive and clear regulation that defines and regulates conscientious objection at the workplace, in particular for health care providers,” Nordström explains. “Swedish medical workers are being reprimanded, repositioned, fired, and put at a disadvantage in other ways as well. Their freedoms under international treaties are being violated.”

“Willingness to commit an abortion cannot be a litmus test for employment,” added ADF International Senior Legal Counsel and Director of UN Advocacy Paul Coleman. “Medical clinics and hospitals need to respect the desire and conviction of a midwife or nurse to protect life – a desire that led Ellinor Grimmark and others like her to pursue the profession in the first place.”

Silencing the Voices of the Faithful in Health Care

 Without People of Faith in Medicine, Who Will Defend the Vulnerable?

Denise Hunnell, MD

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 23, 2015 (Zenit.org) – Religious liberty provides for the free exercise of one’s faith in every aspect of life. This freedom is far more extensive than merely having the freedom to attend the worship service of choice.  Truly living one’s faith means that family life, professional life, leisure activities, as well as spiritual practices are guided by the tenets of faith. . . .

Every profession is vulnerable to this religious discrimination, but perhaps none more so than the medical profession. Health care workers are intimately involved with matters of life and death on a daily basis. Catholic teaching, in accord with natural law, professes that all human life has intrinsic dignity from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death and faithful Catholics seek to uphold this dignity in every aspect of their lives, including their professional activities. Catholic health care workers are increasingly challenged by a secular health care system that offers little or no protection for the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly, and has little regard for religious principles.[Full text]

 

Group claims Maltese abortion law violates convention against torture

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council that accuses Malta of violating the Convention Against Torture and other alleged obligations because Maltese law prohibits abortion.  The ICJ describes itself as “60 eminent judges and lawyers from all regions of the world” that “promotes and protects human rights through the Rule of Law, by using its unique legal expertise to develop and strengthen national and international justice systems.”  The same general claim was made this month by the UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

 

UN Human Rights Council equates lack of access to abortion with torture

Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Juan E. Méndez

The present report focuses on certain forms of abuses in health-care settings that
may cross a threshold of mistreatment that is tantamount to torture or cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment or punishment. It identifies the policies that promote these practices  and existing protection gaps.

By illustrating some of these abusive practices in health-care settings, the report sheds light on often undetected forms of abusive practices that occur under the auspices of health-care policies, and emphasizes how certain treatments run afoul of the prohibition on torture and ill-treatment. It identifies the scope of State‟s obligations to regulate, control and supervise health-care practices with a view to preventing mistreatment under any pretext.

The Special Rapporteur examines a number of the abusive practices commonly reported in health-care settings and describes how the torture and ill-treatment framework applies in this context. [Report]

UNFPA head promotes aggressive approach to “reproductive rights”

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, has published and editorial that extols the passage of the Philippines Reproductive Health Act.  He argues that “family planning is a long established human right” and makes a claim for “reproductive rights,” and asserts that it is necessary to “tear down . . . barriers that prevent [people] from accessing information and services.”

World Medical Association and unethical “participation”

Those who, for reasons of conscience, refuse to facilitate morally contested procedures by referral or other indirect means should take note of the World Medical Association’s reaffirmation of its position against physician “participation” in executions, which now includes a statement that physicians must not facilitate executions by importing drugs for executions.  Similarly, the British group, Reprieve, has embarked upon a campaign to have drug companies sign a Pharmaceutical Hippocratic Oath against the use of their products in executions.  [Bioedge]