As abortion, euthanasia and other controversial procedures become more widespread, conscientious objection for healthcare workers is becoming a flashpoint for controversy throughout the Western world. Some doctors and ethicists have argued that conscientious objection itself is unethical because doctors are required to fulfil any legal request that their patients make.
MercatorNet interviewed Professor Michael Quinlan, dean of the law school at the Sydney campus of the University of Notre Dame Australia, about this contentious issue. He has just published an article on the situation in Australian jurisdictions. [Full text]
For too long, bioethics has followed law in reducing “conscience” to “conscientious objection,” in other words, to laws and policies permitting and protecting refusal. In “Reframing Conscientious Care: Providing Abortion Care When Law and Conscience Collide,” Mara Buchbinder and colleagues draw our attention to one dimension of the problem of reducing conscience to refusal to provide certain forms of medical care: what about the conscience problems experienced by the professionals who are attempting to provide safe, effective health care that includes services that others associate with conscientious objection? In seeking to disrupt a specific medical practice – one that is legal, desired by the patient, and conducted in accordance with medical standards – North Carolina House Bill 854, The Women’s Right to Know Act, and laws like it, appear to be designed to produce moral distress in physicians and other professionals involved in the provision of abortions. For abortion providers in North Carolina and other states, conscientious objection to the mandates of laws like HB 854 isn’t a realistic option. So what can bioethics offer to professionals bound by such laws? We can start by reclaiming the idea of “conscience” as something that can say “yes” to providing health care.
Berlinger, N. (2016), When Policy Produces Moral Distress: Reclaiming Conscience. Hastings Center Report, 46: 32–34. doi: 10.1002/hast.547 [Full text]
Newborn infant starved to death in Toronto hospital
One of the nurses who was caring for her today looked at me with tears in her eyes and said “this is not right – if they took her home and didn’t feed her they would be charged – why is it okay for us to do this?”
Fr. Michael Della Penna, ofm* and Francisca Burg-Feret*
This paper begins with a case study describing the perspective of a Catholic nurse who experienced moral distress while observing the tragic death of a newborn infant named Baby Mary. The purpose of this paper is to raise awareness and educate readers about the concept of moral distress and promote a greater understanding of the lived experience of Catholic health care providers who undergo this trauma. It also provides an analysis and some recommendations for practice that can help health care professionals make good ethical choices in difficult situations based on their faith. Full Text