Christian nurse sues hospital for requiring her to assist abortions

Lifesite News

Claire Chretien

DURHAM, North Carolina, November 3, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – A Catholic nurse is suing Duke University Hospital, claiming that the university discriminated against her religious and pro-life beliefs by requiring her to assist in abortions.

Sara T. Pedro was told during her employee orientation that Duke University Hospital provides no exceptions to employees in its Emergency Department who don’t want to participate in abortions. The lawsuit, filed by The Thomas More Law Center on Pedro’s behalf, says that Duke’s Emergency Department performs “a large number of abortions.”

The lawsuit claims that Pedro faced retaliation and discrimination after she made a written request to be exempt from the pro-abortion policy. . . [Full text]


Canadian nurse forced out for refusing to participate in euthanasia

Lifesite News

Pete Baklinski

PALMER RAPIDS, Ontario, June 14, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — A Canadian nurse no longer has her job helping the sick and the elderly after she was told that she must either assist patients who wanted to kill themselves using the country’s new euthanasia law, or resign.

Mary Jean Martin, a Registered Nurse who worked in middle-management as a Homecare Coordinator in Ontario, said she became a nurse in the late 1980s to help the “vulnerable and the struggling,” not to be a link in a chain that would ultimately lead to a patient’s death.

“Can you imagine being a nurse and being told that you have to help kill someone? That’s so against the philosophy of nursing and it’s so against the heart of the healthcare person,” she told LifeSiteNews in an exclusive interview. . . [Full text]


New threat to nurses and midwives over abortions, warns Christian nurse

Christian Today

Ruth Gledhill

A leading Christian nurse is warning that nurses and midwives could find themselves under new pressures to be involved with abortions and other procedures that go against their conscience.

Steve Fouch, head of nursing with the the Christian Medical Fellowship Head of Nursing, warns in a blog of a  challenge to the rules that allow doctors to opt out of abortions.

He is writing after a new study, headlined ‘Vacuum aspiration for induced abortion could be safely and legally performed by nurses and midwives’,  questions the need for abortions to be carried out by doctors in the first place. . . [Full text]

New study threatens midwives’ freedom of conscience on abortion

CMF Blogs

Steve Fouch

In the latest bid to circumvent the increasing number of younger doctors being unwilling to perform abortions, a new report has challenged the need for some surgical abortions to be undertaken by doctors at all.

Sally Sheldon, a Law Professor at the University of Kent, has published a study into the 1967 Abortion Act and subsequent legal opinions to argue that in the case of vacuum aspiration (VAs), midwives or nurses should be able to carry out the procedure.

This, she argues is congruent with ‘recognition of nurse competences, follows government policy that patients should receive the right care, in the right place at the right time by appropriately trained staff, fits with guidance offered by relevant professional bodies, and offers the potential for developing more streamlined, cost-effective abortion services.’ . . . [Full text]


Fostering Nurses’ Moral Agency and Moral Identity: The Importance of Moral Community

hastings-centerAbstract: 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.

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.


Management of late gestation abortion of concern in Birmingham Women’s NHS Foundation Trust

Sean Murphy*

According to an inspection report of the Birmingham Women’s National Health Service Foundation Trust, the facility did not consistently provide women seeking abortion with information to prepare them for the possibility of the survival of an infant following a late gestation abortion, including the need to notify the coroner should the infant die. (p. 4, 15)  Apparently the outpatients’ clinic provided patients with this information verbally. (p. 16)

The effect of late term abortions on staff and patients is described as “distressing,”  one of the risks in need of identification, monitoring and mitigation(p.6).  Ward staff felt unprepared to respond to late term abortions involving the survival of an infant (p. 6), several complaining that they “had not received training that would equip them to deal with the physical and emotional aspects of advanced gestation abortions.” (p. 15, 18)

One issue was the need to develop “differential care pathways,” apparently related to decisions about how to manage a surviving or deceased infant based on the reason for the abortion. (p. 16)

Staff involved in what the report describes as a “new complex termination of pregnancy service” were not adequately prepared or engaged before it began, and “continued to express concerns” over a year after its introduction.  Staff had been allowed to opt out of the service, but several (apparently among those who remained) complained about “distress to women and how they felt ill prepared to care for them.” (p. 31)

The report also states, without explanation, “The trust must ensure all HSA1 certificates for termination of pregnancy are fully completed by the registered medical practitioners signing them.” (p. 34)  This may reflect a continuing problem with certification by physicians of the need for abortions, which is a legal requirement.  Among problems previously identified was the practice of signing the forms in advance without actually seeing a patient.

These elements of the report illustrate the practical realities that inform the decisions of some health care personnel who refuse to provide or participate in abortion.




Growing Intolerance Threatens Rights of Conscience of Health Care Workers

Lynn Wardle*

Around the world, policies and actions of many governments and governmental agencies are threatening rights of conscience of health care providers and employees.  These challenges and dangers seem to be increasing.

Recent times have seen numerous high-profile incidents in which nurses, doctors, hospital staff, government employees, and other health care workers are being pressured, required and forced to provide morally-controversial elective procedures (such as non-therapeutic abortions) despite their expressed moral objections to participating in such services. [Full text]


Nurses Cannot be Good Catholics

BMJ Blogs

John Olusegun Adenitire

It seems that if you are a nurse you cannot be a good Catholic.  Or, better: if you want to work as a nurse then you might have to give up some of your religious beliefs.  A relatively recent decision of the UK Supreme Court, the highest court in the country, seems to suggest so.  In a legal decision that made it into the general press (see here), the Supreme Court decided that two Catholic midwives could not refuse to undertake administrative and supervisory tasks connected to the provision of abortions.

To be sure, no one asked the nurses to directly assist in the provision of abortions.  The Abortion Act 1967 says that “No person shall be under any duty … to participate in any treatment authorised by this Act to which he has a conscientious objection.”  The Nurses argued that this provision of the Act should be understood widely.  Not only should they be allowed to refuse to directly assist in abortion services: they should also be entitled to refuse to undertake managerial and supervisory tasks if those were linked to abortion services.  The nurses’ employer was not impressed; neither was the Supreme Court which ruled that the possibility to conscientiously object only related to a ‘hands-on’ capacity in the provision of abortion services. . . [Full text]


Right-to-die hits another snag with nurses

Nursing regulator in B.C. says it’s not yet clear that court ruling allowing assisted death protects participating nurses

Vancouver Sun

Jeff Lee

A B.C. doctor leading the efforts to provide physician-assisted dying says she’s being thwarted in her efforts to recruit nurses to help administer intravenous drugs.

On Monday Dr. Ellen Wiebe, the medical director of the Willow Women’s Centre in Vancouver, assisted a Calgary woman with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in dying after an Alberta court issued an exemption allowing the assistance.

Wiebe said on Thursday that she has a case going to B.C. Supreme Court next week in which a patient has chosen to die at home using intravenous medications. But she said the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia “does not support this.” . . . [Full text]


Your morality, my mortality: conscientious objection and the standard of care

Ben A. Rich


Recently the scope of protections afforded those healthcare professionals and institutions that refuse to provide certain interventions on the grounds of conscience have expanded, in some instances insulating providers (institutional and individual) from any liability or sanction for harms that patients experience as a result. With the exponential increase in the penetration of Catholic-affiliated healthcare across the country, physicians and nurses who are not practicing Catholics are nevertheless required to execute documents pledging to conform their patient care to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Health Care Services as a condition of employment or medical staff privileges. In some instances, doing so may result in patient morbidity or mortality or violate professional standards for respecting advance directives or surrogate decisionmaking. This article challenges the ethical propriety of such institutional mandates and argues that legal protections for conscientious refusal must provide redress for patients who are harmed by care that falls below the prevailing clinical standards.

RICH, B. (2015). Your Morality, My Mortality: Conscientious Objection and the Standard of Care. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 24(2), 214-230. doi:10.1017/S0963180114000528