31 December, 2012
Covering the period from 1 November to 31 December, 2012
1. By Region/Country
Visit the Project News/Blog for details.
The Australia Institute has published the results of a survey indicating
that about 70% of the respondents agreed that physicians should be able to
provide euthansia in cases of "unrelievable and incurable suffering." The
Advanced Care Directives Bill (2012) in South Australia defines medical treatment and
health care to include nutrition and hydration, and makes it possible
for nutrition and hydration to be refused or denied even to patient who
is not dying. The
protection of conscience provision in the bill requires objectors to
facilitate the withdrawal of food and fluids.
The Belgian Socialist party has submitted proposals to amend the
country's euthanasia law to permit euthanasia of children and persons
suffering from dementia.
Statistics Canada has confirmed that 491 babies survived abortions in
Canada between 2000 and 2009 and then died.
Tests of a patient diagnosed as having been in a "persistent
vegetative state" for twelve years following a car crash have
demonstrated that he is self-aware and capable of mentally
responding to communication from caregivers. The tests were
performed using an fMRI machine.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ruled that the Costa Rican
law prohibiting in vitro fertilization violates the American
Convention on Human Rights(Murillo
et al. v. Costa Rica.
Professor Didier Sicard has produced a report for the French government
recommending that euthanasia should remain illegal. He also recommends that
"accelerated death" should be allowed in three kinds of circumstances, and
news reports describe the proposals as legalizing assisted suicide.
The World Medical Association as
reaffirmed 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
Pharmaceutical Hippocratic Oath against the use of their products in
The definition of "participation" is important because it acknowledges that
moral responsiblity can attach to indirect as well as direct involvement
with a procedure.
Safe Abortion: Technical and Policy Guidance for Health Systems,
a newly revised publication of the World Health Organization, claims that
objecting health care workers have an ethical responsibility to refer
patients for abortion, or to provide abortions if referral is not possible. The WHO
document has been
reviewed and criticized by Susan Yoshihara of the Catholic Family and
Human Rights Institute, but awaits a critique by medical and legal
The U.N. Population Fund's annual
report claims that access to birth control is a human right. The report
has no legal significance, but activists like the American based Center for
Reproductive Rights have pursued a strategy of seeking such declarations, or
"soft norms," in the hope that they will eventually lead to binding "harde
norms" that can be enforced against governments and objecting health care
workers. (See Secret
Memos Reveal Worldwide Pro-Abortion Legal Strategy)
The death of a 31 year old woman at the Galway University Hospital in
October generated enormous controversy in Ireland. Savita Halappanavar was
17 weeks pregnant when she presented with back pain on 21 October. Reports
indicate that she was miscarrying. She developed septicaemia and died on 29
October. An interview of the reporter who broke the story in the
Times disclosed that the headline and story were deliberately
inflammatory, making it appear that she had died because she was refused an
abortion. Several investigations are underway. A survey conducted following
the news found 80% of Irish respondents in favour of legalization of
abortion to save the life of a mother.
Meanwhile, a panel appointed by the Irish government has stated the government
is obliged to provide guidelines that establish how women in Ireland can
obtain abortions consistent with Irish law. It recommends that a physician
who objects to abortion for reasons of conscience should be forced to
facilitate the procedure by referring a patient to a willing colleague, and
to provide an abortion "when the risk of death is imminent and inevitable."
The report is not clear on the extent to which conscientious objection might
be allowed to other health care workers. The Irish government has
announced that it will legalize the procedure under some
circumstances, but the lawyer who won a judgement at the
European Court of Human Rights against Ireland's ban on
abortion, argues that restrictions on abortion related to the
life or health of the mother are unacceptable.
A 58 year old woman, Marie Fleming, wife of euthanasia campaigner Tom Curran, has
brought a case in the Irish High Court to legalize assisted suicide in
Ireland. She is said to be "terminally ill with multiple sclerosis."
The Philippines Senate and House of Representatives passed the
Reproductive Health Bill by signficant margins, and it has been signed by
the Philippines President. It will take effect in January, 2013.
The European Court of Human Rights has issued a
judgement adverse to freedom of conscience and ordered Poland to pay two
complainants, a mother and daughter, a total of 61,000 Euros in damages and
costs. Subject to the possibility that the English translation of the
judgement is faulty, the use of the term "anti-choice activist" by the
judges brings their impartiality into question. However, the facts of the
case outlined in the judgement suggest that the conduct of Polish health
care personnel, anti-abortion activists, clergy and state authorities
effectively guaranteed an adverse outcome.
A report by Lord Justice Leveson, who conducted
An inquiry into the culture, ethics and practice of the press,
includes a recommendation that a protection of conscience clause should be
included in journalist contracts. It follows upon his observation that
journalists were reluctant or afraid to contest unethical or illegal
activities they encountered, and that this seemed related to lack of
protection for those acting on conscientious conviction. One would
hope that British journalists might demonstrate some interest in the issue
of freedom of conscience for health care workers.
Contentious litigation continues with respect to the Department
of Health and Human Services birth control mandate. Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino's Pizza,
has filed suit. Judgements in other cases have been see-sawing for and
against the plaintiffs. Meanwhile, the Little Sisters of the Poor, a
Catholic religious order that provides nursing care to the elderly poor in
30 American cities, is considering the possiblity of leaving the United
States if the current regulation stands.
After seven years of litigation, the Illinois Attorney General
has conceded that
pharmacists cannot be forced to dispense drugs to which they object
for reasons of conscience. The
Religious Liberty Protection Act has been passed by the Michigan
Senate by a vote of 26-12.
Nearly one hundred doctors in Uruguay filed a lawsuit on Dec. 7, arguing
that the country's new abortion norms to not allow for conscientious
2. News Items
You can search news items by date, country and topic in the
Project News Portal.
3. Recent Postings
Abortion controversy in Ireland
Irish Archbishops challenged on claims of conscience about
Survivor of Nazi 'Twin Experiments' Talks to Doctors About Human Subjects
Message to Irish lawmakers: "Exceptions don't work"
American obstetrician comments on death of woman in Ireland
Jefferson's Robust Views of Religious Freedom
Re: Washington State Board of Pharmacy Regulation
Americans United for Life Celebrates Win for Illinois Conscience Rights in
Case AUL Championed Since 2005
They Said "No"
Ob/Gyn Medical Student
4. Action Items
The Project will post notices of conferences
that are explore and support the principle freedom of conscience, including the
legitimate role of moral or religious conviction in shaping law and public
policy in pluralist states or societies.
23 February, 2013
Sr Diana Dreger, MD "Physicians or Technicians: Why Conscience
Matters" (AAPLOG CME Meeting)
6. Publications of Interest