Physicians in Croatia refusing to provide abortion

Sean Murphy*

It is reported that, of 27 licensed public hospitals in Croatia, five have stopped providing abortions because staff physicians are unwilling to perform them for reasons of conscience: Zagreb’s “Sveti duh” hospital, the general hospitals in Nasice, Vinkovci and Virovitica, and the general hospital in Knin.

There have been unsubstantiated accusations that some doctors in Zabok and Zagreb who claim a “conscientious objection” to performing abortions in public hospitals actually do provide them in illegally in private practice.  The accusation that some physicians who purport to be conscientious objectors in public hospitals will privately perform illegal abortions for payment has also been made in Italy.

Abortion activists insist that public hospitals should not employ physicians who object to abortion. [Hrvatsko Izdanje]

 

 

Good News and Bad News

Presentation to the Catholic Physicians’ Guild of Vancouver

North Vancouver B.C.

Sean Murphy *

Introduction

Thank you for inviting me to speak this evening. I have never been asked to give a three hour presentation to a group of physicians. You will be relieved to know that I have not been asked to do that tonight.

Those of you who saw the BC Catholic headline may have been expecting a “lecture on medical ethics,” but, thanks to Dr. Bright’s introduction, you now know that I am an administrator, not an ethicist, and that my topic is freedom of conscience in health care.

Protection of Conscience Project

The Protection of Conscience Project will be 15 years old this December. Although a meeting sponsored by the Catholic Physicians Guild provided the impetus for its formation, the Project is a non-denominational initiative, not a Catholic enterprise. Thus, if I mention the Catholic Church or Catholic teaching tonight, it will be as an outsider, as it were, though an outsider with inside information.

One more thing: the Project does not take a position on the acceptability of morally contested procedures like abortion, contraception or euthanasia: not even on torture. The focus is exclusively on freedom of conscience.

Context

Supreme Court of Canada, OttawaThe context for my presentation is provided by the passage of the Quebec euthanasia law1 and the pending decision in Carter v. Canada in the Supreme Court.2 Physicians are now confronted by the prospect that laws against euthanasia and physician assisted suicide will be struck down or changed. If that happens, what does the future hold for Catholic physicians and others who share your beliefs?

Will you be forced to participate in suicide or euthanasia?

If you refuse, will you be disadvantaged, discriminated against, disciplined, sued or fired?

Will you be forced out of your specialty or profession, or forced to emigrate if you wish to continue in it?

What about those who come after you? If you avoid all of these difficulties, will they?

In sum, will freedom of conscience and religion for health care workers be protected if assisted suicide and euthanasia are legalized? [Full Text]

Top nursing group backs Navy nurse who wouldn’t force-feed at Guantánamo

Miami Herald

Carol Rosenberg

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba

One of America’s leading nursing organizations is trying to save the U.S. Navy career of an officer, a nurse like them, who refused to force-feed hunger strikers this summer.

In a private letter, the American Nurses Association wrote Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel last month arguing that the nurse should not be punished for making an independent ethical decision. The Physicians for Human Rights set up a conference call for Wednesday with the Navy nurse’s attorney and the advocacy group’s president to disclose the letter, which has been obtained by the Miami Herald.

It says: “These actions are resulting from the nurse’s expressing an ethical objection to participating in the force-feeding of detainees who are engaging in a form of protest at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp.” The Pentagon has not responded.

The Miami Herald disclosed the crisis of conscience over the summer after a Syrian hunger striker heard the lieutenant declare he could no longer force-feed, told his lawyer about it, and the prison confirmed it happened.

Commanders cut short the deployment of the male nurse — who has never been publicly identified — and returned him to his base in New England. His boss ordered that a Board of Inquiry be formed to consider whether to discharge him from military service. . . [Full Text]

Navy Nurse Should Not be Punished for Declining to Force-Feed Guantánamo Detainees

PHR Welcomes American Nurses Association’s (ANA) Statement Supporting Nurses’ Professional Autonomy

Physicians for Human Rights

New York, NY – 11/19/2014

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today welcomed the American Nurses Association’s (ANA) statement supporting a nurse who refused to force-feed Guantánamo detainees based on his professional ethical obligations. PHR urged the U.S. Navy to end any disciplinary actions against the nurse, who has been charged with misconduct and faces potential discharge from the military.

“Nurses, like physicians, have professional duties to respect the autonomous decisions of their patients and never participate in ill-treatment or torture,” said Dr. Vincent Iacopino, PHR’s senior medical advisor. “This nurse has shown exemplary commitment to his profession’s ethics by refusing to comply with a military policy that has no clinical justification and is inherently harmful. The Navy should not punish him for refusing to compromise established ethical principles.”

Today’s statement represents the first time the ANA has spoken publicly about force-feeding at Guantánamo, signaling the wider nursing community’s interest in the nurse’s situation and the military’s treatment of medical professionals. The ANA also released communications it had with top defense officials urging them not to punish the nurse for exercising his professional rights and duties. PHR emphasized that the codes of conduct for nurses and physicians mandate respect for patient autonomy and the principle of doing no harm, and that military clinicians are legally and ethically bound to comply.

The Navy is considering holding an administrative trial that could lead to the nurse’s discharge from the Navy, in which he has served for 18 years. His decision not to participate in force-feeding was revealed through Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Guantánamo detainee challenging his force-feeding in federal court. Dhiab’s case has shed light on the cruel and unnecessary methods used at Guantánamo, including the use of five-point restraint chairs and forced cell extractions.

“All physicians and nurses share a duty to put their patients first and act in their best interests, no matter the circumstances,” said Widney Brown, PHR’s director of programs. “Punishing this nurse for upholding the humane treatment of his patients sends a message that medical professionalism is not respected at Guantánamo.”

The World Medical Association and the American Medical Association are among the leading medical groups that prohibit force-feeding of competent adults. PHR said that health professionals should never take part, and pointed out that the main purpose of the Department of Defense’s force-feeding policy is to keep detainees from protesting over a decade of indefinite detention without charge. In response to criticism of these practices, the U.S. government has applied secrecy rules to any information regarding its treatment of hunger strikers.

PHR calls on the U.S. government to:

  • Immediately end the practice of force-feeding hunger strikers and institute policies and procedures consistent with the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Tokyo and Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikers;
  • Ensure that no health professionals are compelled to participate in force-feeding, and that those who refuse do not face disciplinary or retaliatory actions for complying with their professional obligations; and
  • Commit to full transparency around hunger strikes at Guantánamo and medical management policies and protocols, including the release of Dhiab’s force-feeding videotapes.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

Media Contact:

Vesna Jaksic Lowe, MS
Deputy Director of Communications, New York
vjaksiclowe [at] phrusa [dot] org

American Nurses’ Association supports conscientious objection by U.S. Navy nurse

ANA Statement on the Rights of Navy Nurse to Refuse to Participate in the Force-feeding of Detainees at Guantanamo Bay

Statement attributable to ANA President Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN:

ANA has been actively monitoring the force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay for more than two years, and we support the registered nurses in the military who have to make very difficult decisions related to either moving forward with or questioning any activity within a plan of care.

Professional registered nurses operate under a Code of Ethics that emphasizes the right to make independent, ethical judgments regardless of the setting in which nursing care is provided—even if this causes a nurse to experience conflict arising from competing loyalties.

The rights of registered nurses to honor their professional ethical obligations regarding force-feeding and other sensitive issues are absolutely protected and should be exercised without fear of retaliation.

We urge military leaders and health providers to uphold the ethical code of conduct to which all professional registered nurses are accountable and to be receptive to concerns raised by nurses or any other health care professional who is compelled, by an ethical commitment, to question any activity within the plan of care.

We do not believe this nurse should have to show cause for remaining in the Navy.

The ambiguous victim: Miklós Nyiszli’s narrative of medical experimentation in Auschwitz-Birkenau

. . While recent scholarship has – for the past two decades – endeavoured to transcend initial reservations about these forms of testimony, the difficulty with some of these memoirs – namely their authors’ implicit complicity in unethical medical research and in the Nazi Holocaust in general – remains however problematic. To address this thorny issue, in this article I consider the memoirs of a Jewish inmate doctor and forensic pathologist who worked with and for SS medical officers in Auschwitz, particularly Josef Mengele. His name was Mikló Nyiszli. . .

Turda M.  The ambiguous victim: Miklós Nyiszli’s narrative of medical experimentation in Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Historein. 2014; 14(1): 43–58. doi:  10.12681/historein.232

Euthanasia in the Netherlands is getting out of hand: ethicist who screened over 4,000 euthanasia cases

 LifeSite News

Jeanne Smits

A prominent professor of ethics who was once part of the Netherlands’ euthanasia bureaucracy has again voiced his qualms over the present interpretation and use of the Dutch euthanasia law in a lengthy interview published last week by the Protestant daily, Trouw.

Prof. Theo Boer is worried that current trends in the Netherlands are trivializing euthanasia to an extent that many who fought for legalization of “mercy killing” in the 1990s now privately express their opinion that it has gone too far. And it will be hard to turn back the clock, he acknowledges.

Theo Boer does not oppose euthanasia: on the contrary, he served as an ethicist for nine years on one of the five regional control commissions that monitor all cases of declared euthanasia in the Netherlands. He stepped down last September. [Full text]

Proposed Australian euthanasia bill may return in 2015

Medical Services (Dying with Dignity) Exposure Draft Bill 2014

The six member Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee of the Australian Senate has issued a report recommending that Greens senator Richard di Natale reflect and consult further with experts concerning his euthanasia and assisted suicide bill.  The Committee also recommended that, if a revised bill is formally introduced, senators should be allowed a “conscience vote” on it. The bill has some provisions that provide some protection for objecting physicians, but they are problematic in some respects.

Should midwives opposed to abortion have the right to refuse any involvement in cases?

Landmark decision ‘could have severe impact on women’s care’, experts warn

Daily Mail

Lizzie Parry

Midwives who object to abortions could be allowed to opt out of any involvement with women who choose to terminate their unborn babies.

The UK’s Supreme Court will today hear an appeal after two Catholic midwives won a landmark case for the right to refuse any involvement in abortion procedures in 2013.

Mary Doogan, 58, and Connie Wood, 52, argued that being required to supervise staff involved in abortions was a violation of their human rights.

The women had no direct role in pregnancy terminations, but claimed they should also be able to refuse to support staff taking part in the procedures.

If the court upholds that decision it could set a legal precedent, allowing other midwives who object to abortions to take the same stance.

But the Royal College of Midwives and the women’s charity British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) warned today that such a ruling could have severe implications for the care of women choosing abortions.

Ms Doogan and Ms Wood took their case against NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to the Court of Session in Edinburgh in 2012, but lost.

But in April last year, three appeal judges at the same court ruled their appeal should succeed.

Judges at the court will tomorrow hear an appeal by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

A spokesman for the RCM and bpas said the two bodies are ‘deeply concerned’ that the judgement ‘extends the right of conscientious objection beyond the provisions intended by the Abortion Act’. . . . [Full text]

Fury after mothers get thousands in compensation – for healthy babies they tried to have aborted

 Daily Mail

Jonathan Petre and Stephen Adams

Women have successfully sued the NHS for hundreds of thousands of pounds – despite giving birth to healthy babies.

The mothers won the huge payouts after claiming that procedures to stop them having children – including abortions – went wrong.

The women received the cash for reasons including the pain suffered in childbirth and the discomfort of pregnancy.

Last night the former Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, hit out at the move, saying: ‘A healthy child is an occasion for thanksgiving rather than for taking the NHS to the cleaners and using up precious funds which could otherwise be more usefully employed.’

And TV presenter and mother-of-two Kirstie Allsopp, who has urged women to have children while they are still young, said she understood that people who had suffered a serious medical malpractice or had a disabled child needed support, but added: ‘It seems to me that to be able to sue the NHS after the birth of a healthy baby is simply not something the majority of people would agree with.

‘The NHS hasn’t got an infinite amount of money. I think parents in that position should think twice.’

The successful legal claims have been made by at least 40 women over the past ten years. . . [Full text]