Professor David Oderberg joins Protection of Conscience Project Advisory Board

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For immediate release

Protection of Conscience Project

The Protection of Conscience Project welcomes David S. Oderberg, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading, UK to the Project Advisory Board. Professor Oderberg joined the university after completing his doctorate at Oxford in the early 1990s. He is the author of many articles in metaphysics, ethics, philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, and other areas. He is also the author of several books including Moral Theory and Applied Ethics (Blackwell, 2000) as well as co-editor of collections in ethics such as Human Values: New Essays on Ethics and Natural Law (Palgrave, 2004) and Human Lives: New Essays on Non-Consequentialist Bioethics (Palgrave, 1997).

Prof. Oderberg has been working on freedom of conscience in health care over the last few years, with a recent article in the Journal of Medical Ethics on co-operation, and a forthcoming policy monograph to be published by the Institute of Economic Affairs. He is Editor of Ratio, an international journal of analytic philosophy, and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. In 2013 he delivered the Hourani Lectures in Ethics at SUNY Buffalo, and has a book forthcoming based on those lectures, to be called The Metaphysics of Good and Evil. [Faculty Profile] [Website]

Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project

The Protection of Conscience Project is a non-profit, non-denominational initiative that advocates for freedom of conscience in health care. The Project does not take a position on the morality or acceptability of morally contested procedures. Since 1999, the Project has been supporting health care workers who want to provide the best care  for their patients without violating their own personal and professional integrity. 



Protection of Conscience Project welcomes new advisor from Scotland

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Protection of Conscience Project

The Protection of Conscience Project welcomes Dr. Mary Neal, PhD, LLB Honours, LLM to the Project Advisory Board. Dr. Neal is Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.  She researches, writes, and teaches in the fields of Healthcare Law and Bioethics, focusing on beginning and end-of-life issues.  In 2014-15, she was Adviser to the Scottish Parliamentary Committee scrutinising the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill, and she is a current member [2018] of the British Medical Association’s Medical Ethics Committee. She has published a wide range of academic articles and blogs on a range of topics including, most recently, conscientious objection by healthcare professionals; the nature of ‘proper medical treatment’; the role of the emotions in end-of-life decision-making; and the conceptual structure and content of human dignity.

Dr. Neal was a co-editor of and contributor to the recent volume Ethical Judgments: Re-writing Medical Law (Hart, 2017). Her works-in-progress include articles and book chapters on conscientious objection; the idea of ‘vulnerability’ in healthcare; physician-assisted suicide; and the role of dignity in human rights discourse. Among other research activities, Dr. Neal is currently leading two funded projects relevant to the issue of conscientious objection in healthcare. One is a British Academy/Leverhulme-funded project exploring conflicts between personal values and professional expectations in pharmacy practice. The other is a multi-disciplinary network of academics and healthcare professionals (the ‘Accommodating Conscience Research Network’, or ‘ACoRN’), funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and beginning with a series of roundtables exploring various aspects of conscientious objection in healthcare. Dr Neal is also a spokesperson for the Free Conscience campaign supporting the Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill currently before the UK Parliament.[Faculty Profile]

Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project

The Protection of Conscience Project is a non-profit, non-denominational initiative that advocates for freedom of conscience in health care. The Project does not take a position on the morality or acceptability of morally contested procedures. Since 1999, the Project has been supporting health care workers who want to provide the best care  for their patients without violating their own personal and professional integrity. 

International constitutional and human rights lawyer joins Protection of Conscience Project Advisory Board

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Protection of Conscience Project

The Protection of Conscience Project welcomes Dr. Iain Benson, Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney and Extraordinary Professor of Law, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein South Africa to the Project Advisory Board.

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the father of seven children, Professor Benson is an academic, lecturer and practising lawyer specialising in pluralism and human rights.  His particular focus is on freedoms of association, conscience and religion, the nature of pluralism, multi-culturalism and relationships between law, religion and culture. He has been involved in many of the leading cases on rights of association, conscience and religion in Canada and abroad for two decades.  As a barrister he has appeared before all levels of court and his work has been cited by the Supreme Court of Canada and the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

He was one of the drafters of the South African Charter of Religious Rights and Freedoms (signed by all major religions in that country in September 2010) and remains closely involved in advancing the Charter in that country and similar projects elsewhere.

Author of over 40 academic articles and book chapters, he is co-editor with Barry W. Bussey, of Religion Liberty and the Jurisdictional Limits of Law (Toronto: Lexis Nexis, 2017) and authored Living Together with Disagreement: Pluralism, the Secular and the Fair Treatment of Beliefs by Law (Ballan Australia: Connor Court, 2012). His scholarly work is referred to in many books and articles.

He teaches Legal Philosophy, Legal History, Public International Law, Human Rights and Contemporary Legal Issues. He works in English and French, dividing his time between Australia (where he now lives) and France, South Africa and Canada (in the latter two of which he has appointments).[Faculty profile]

Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project

The Protection of Conscience Project is a non-profit, non-denominational initiative that advocates for freedom of conscience in health care. The Project does not take a position on the morality or acceptability of morally contested procedures. Since 1999, the Project has been supporting health care workers who want to provide the best care  for their patients without violating their own personal and professional integrity. 

Catholic Medical Association Joins with 25,000 Physicians Fighting Proposed Global Abortion Policy to Strip Conscience Rights Protections

News Release

Catholic Medical Association

PHILADELPHIA, PA – FEBRUARY 12, 2018 – Conscience rights protections for health care providers in the U.S. and abroad are once again under attack. The World Medical Association (WMA) representing 10 million physicians worldwide is poised to approve a policy that would demand doctors refer for abortion, even against their conscience.

Although current federal statutes in the U.S. protect health care provider’s conscience rights and prohibit recipients of certain federal funds from discriminating against health care providers, WMA ethics policies greatly impact future regulations of the medical profession globally.

The WMA was founded in 1947 in response to Nazi atrocities during WW II. The organization promotes itself as “evaluating and codifying ethics in healthcare.” Currently the WMA policy requires doctors ensure continuity of care for patients who choose abortion, but not force doctors refer for the procedure. However, the WMA’s proposed revision threatens the conscience rights of all physicians and health care professionals by proposing the following amendment:

“Individual doctors have a right to conscientious objection to providing abortion, but that right does not entitle them to impede or deny access to lawful abortion services because it delays care for women, putting their health and life at risk. In such cases, the physician must refer the woman to a willing and trained health professional in the same, or another easily accessible health-care facility, in accordance with national law. Where referral is not possible, the physician who objects, must provide safe abortion or perform whatever procedure is necessary to save the woman’s life and to prevent serious injury to her health.”

The proposed changes in policy would also eliminate the provision that “requires the physician to maintain respect for human life.”

“We do not believe abortion is healthcare. The international impact on this global abortion policy is incalculable,” said CMA President Dr. Peter T. Morrow. “We join with the representatives of over 25,000 physicians, nurses, health care providers and patient advocates who provide excellent, scientific, ethical and moral healthcare in accordance with the principles of the Oath of Hippocrates. Collectively we request that the WMA’s revision be rejected, it is subversive of physician freedom of conscience concerning abortion in the short term, and euthanasia and assisted suicide in the long term.”

The American Medical Association (AMA) is an associate member of the WMA and can recommend rejections and or revisions.  The CMA supports conscience rights of all healthcare professionals with regards to abortion as well as physician assisted suicide, and is jointly sending a letter co-written by: American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Pediatricians, Christian Medical & Dental Associations, National Association of Catholic Nurses-U.S.A. and The National Catholic Bioethics Center to the AMA strongly denouncing the WMA’s proposed change forcing physicians to violate their conscience rights.

The WMA’s proposed changes could become a global policy. The general assembly is scheduled to vote in October.


Susanne LaFrankie, MA
Diector of Communications

The Catholic Medical Association is a national, physician-led community of over 2,400 health care professionals. CMA’s mission is to inform, organize, and inspire its members, to uphold the principles of the Catholic faith in the science and practice of medicine.

Physician, expert in Jewish medical ethics joins Protection of Conscience Project Advisory Board

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Protection of Conscience Project

Professor Shimon Glick, MD,  of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel, has joined the Protection of Conscience Project Advisory Board.

Professor Glick was born in Brooklyn in 1932 and received his medical training in the United States, specializing in internal medicine and endocrinology. He immigrated to Israel in 1974 to become a founding member of the Faculty of Health Sciences (FOHS) at Ben Gurion University of the Negev and head of the Internal Medicine Department at Soroka Medical Center. He and his colleagues instituted the practice of “early clinical exposure,” insisting that students meet patients in their first week at medical school, even before beginning traditional academic studies. “The students don’t just treat patients. They talk to them and learn what it’s like to be sick,” he explains. Students also take their medical or Hippocratic oath when they begin their studies, rather than taking the oath when they finish.

Professor Glick became chair of Israel’s first Internal Medicine Division and served as Dean of the FOHS between 1986 and 1990. During his tenure, he played a key role in formulating the admissions process for medical students – a process based not only on achievements but also the candidates’ character. Professor Glick headed the Prywes Center for Medical Education and the Jakobovits Center for Jewish Medical Ethics, two domains that were assigned a central role in the professional education of students in the Faculty. He was also instrumental in the instruction on doctor-patient communications for first year medical students. In addition, Professor Glick has served as ombudsman for Israel’s Ministry of Health. He is widely recognized as an expert in medical ethics, with a particular focus on Jewish medical ethics, and is at the forefront of the efforts to bring a Jewish perspective to bear on the most important issues of modern bioethics.

In 2014, in recognition of his contributions to medical education and practice, Professor Glick received a Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the Nefesh B’Nefesh Bonei Zion Awards. The award recognizes outstanding Anglo Olim – veteran and recent – who encapsulate the spirit of modern-day Zionism by contributing in a significant way towards the State of Israel.

Professor Glick is blessed with 46 grandchildren and (at last count) 77 great grandchildren.  He continues to teach at the Joyce and Irving Goldman Medical School and the Medical School for International Health (MSIH).  [Faculty Profile]


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.


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.”