1 September, 2014
Covering the period from 1 July to 31 August, 2014
1. By Region/Country
Visit the Project News/Blog for details.
With the Supreme Court scheduled to hear the case of Carter v. Canada,
a lawsuit that seeks to legalize physician assisted suicide and euthanasia,
the pressure to legalize the procedures is mounting.
An 85 year old woman in British Columbia killed
herself with a drug overdose because she had
developing dementia. She made her death a political statement in
favour of the legalization of assisted suicide, writing an extensive blog
article explaining her decision and sending a letter to the editor of the
Vancouver Sun for posthumous publication. Subsequently, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA)
has dropped its opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia.
Delegates at its annual general meeting passed a motion stating that
physicians may "follow their conscience" in deciding whether or not to
participate in the procedures.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, state regulator of the
practice of medicine, ended the first round of public consultation about its
policy on freedom of conscience for physicians. Much of the hostility
to freedom of conscience comes from people or groups who are outraged that
some physicians decline to prescribe or refer for contraception and
abortion. Once commentator bluntly wrote: "The current pressure on the
College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to change their human rights
guidelines is all about forcing faithful Catholics out of the public
In any case, the review is particularly worrying given the push for
euthanasia and assisted suicide. The General Practice Section of
the Ontario Medical Association wrote in support of physician freedom of
conscience, as did the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Ottawa in a joint
submission with Rabbi Reuven Bulka and Imam Samy Metwally. The
Protection of Conscience Project submission stated that the Ontario
Human Rights Commission "has
contributed significantly to anti-religious sentiments and a climate of
religious intolerance in Ontario."
Over 18,000 Finns have expressed their support for a citizens' initiative
calling for a right to health care professionals to refuse to participate in
performing abortions on grounds of personal or religious convictions.
An immigrant woman whom a friend says was
raped in her country of origin discovered that she was pregnant after
arriving in Ireland. She apparentlyasked for an abortion
when she was eight weeks pregnant, but it is not clear that she was then
eligible for the procedure under the
new Irish abortion law. According to the reports, she again asked
for an abortion in July, threatening suicide, and was found to be suicidal
by a panel of two psychiatrists and an obstetrician.
The Irish Constitution and the Irish abortion law hold that the lives of
both woman and child must be saved if
practicable. Since the pregnancy was so far advanced, it was decided
that the baby should be delivered by Caesarean section as soon as it was
thought to be viable. The woman initially
refused and refused to take food or fluids. Medical authorities
obtained a court order to rehydrate her. She consented to the Caesarean and
the baby was delivered at about 25 weeks gestation. The baby is now
apparently in state custody and being supported in a neonatal
ward, while the mother is receiving psychiatric treatment. The story
has reignited the abortion controversy in Ireland.
Italy's Senate is considering a bill that would require the government to
provide people with with physical, mental or cognitive disabilities with
"sexual assistants" to relieve their sexual urges. It is reported that
other European countries have such laws. The hiring of prostitutes for
the disabled was the subject of a paper in the Journal of Medical
Ethics. Demands that health care workers arrange for such
services would likely generate conflicts of conscience among some.
A special clinic set up to help people whose doctors do not support
euthanasia has been reprimanded for failings when it helped an elderly woman
who did not want to live in a nursing home to die. The euthanasia monitoring
committee said the clinic's experts had failed to exercise proper care when
carrying out their duties. The clinic was established to provide
euthanasia for patients whose family physicians are unwilling to provide or
facilitate the service.
A website set up by the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand
(ALRANZ) lists health professionals who refuse to prescribe contraceptives
or provide or refer for abortions. Some anti-abortion activists claim
that the website is an attempt to intimidate objecting physicians, since
people are invited to post anonymous complaints about practitioners.
However, the chief executive of Marlborough Primary Health
Organisation states that doctors in the area post notices in their practices
if they do not prescribe contraceptives, and and website is "no different."
The Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Philippines has issued a
pastoral letter explaining that a ruling by the Supreme Court. The
Conference notes that the ruling ensures that objecting health care workers
cannot be forced to prescribe, provide or refer for contraceptives.
The letter also explains other parts of the judgement that refer to
abortifacients, sterilization and sex education.
Dr. Bogdan Chazan, director of Holy Family Hospital in Warsaw, has been
fired by the Mayor of Warsaw for refusing to provide an abortion for a woman
carrying a child that had been diagnosed with severe deformity, and for
failing to refer the woman to a hospital that would do so. Another
hospital declined to perform an abortion because the pregnancy was too
advanced (24 weeks) and the woman delivered the child on 30 June. The
baby died about ten days later. There is a conflict between the Polish
abortion law, which requires referral by an objecting physician, and the
Polish constitution, which guarantees freedom of conscience. The
Polish Prime Minister insists that objecting physicians must refer for
abortion - which many refuse to do - and the woman is reported to be
contemplating a lawsuit against Dr. Chazan. Holy Family Hospital was
also fined 70,000 zloty (almost $19,000.00 USD).
Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a
friend-of-the-court brief with the district court of
Jönköping County Council in Sweden on behalf of a midwife whom three
different medical clinics denied employment because she will not assist with
Fewer than one in five doctors would be willing to help patients end
their lives, according to a new poll. A survey of 600 doctors
found that 60 % are against a change in the law to allow physician-assisted
suicide- a 17% increase in opposition since 2004. Consistent with
this, the British Medical Association (BMA) has reiterated its opposition to
legalising assisted suicide. However, the BMA's publication, the
British Medical Journal, is campaigning for a change in the law.
The Journal is editorially independent of the BMA.
A full issue of the American Journal of Bioethics is dedicated to an
extended discussion of brain death. The subject is important because
of its relationship to organ retrieval, which is morally contentious if the
donor is still alive.
Botched executions by lethal injection are generating controversy and
leading to calls to involve medical professionals in executions.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Obama administration in the case
of Hobby Lobby, holding that the regulation requiring the Christian-owned
company to provide health insurance for embryodical forms of contraception
was a violation of religous freedom. Numerous lawsuits against the
federal government are still pending.
Commentator Wesley J. Smith has drawn attention to efforts by the
American Civil Liberties Union to encourage lawsuits agains health care
institutions that refuse to provide or facilitate abortion or assisted
For reasons of conscience, a navy nurse at the U.S. military prison in
Guantanamo Bay has refused to participate in force-feeding prisoners.
2. News Items
You can search news items by date, country and topic in the
Doctors Should Not Be Forced to Prescribe the Pill
Catholics urged to stand up for docs' rights
COLF urges Catholics to speak up for physicians' conscience
Ontario conscience debate is about forcing out Catholic doctors
Access to Birth Control Isn't Just About Doctors
Will Doctors Be Forced to Kill?
Lynched, fined, and dismissed: an interview with Poland’s Dr.
Navy nurse refuses to force-feed Guantánamo captive
One Conscientious Objector at Gitmo Is Great – But It's Not
Doctors' conscience rights under attack in birth control debate
Conscience rights for Ontario doctors may be on chopping block
We need to remember the lessons on abortion and conscience
before we legalise assisted suicide
Abortion row child dies
Philippines: Church encourages conscientious objection to
Pro-life doctor who refused abortion to be sacked
The doctor who refused to abort
Poland asks: should a doctor serve God, or patients?
Italian bill would fund 'sex assistants' for the disabled
Polish conscience tested: the case of Professor Chazan
Anti-abortion doctor fired
If you want birth control pills, go to a different doctor
Calgary doctor who won't prescribe birth control backed by
pro-life medical professionals
Policy allowing doctors to deny treatment on moral or religious
grounds under review
BMA reiterates opposition to assisted dying
Citizens' initiative calls for right to conscientious objection
in health care
Medical association vows to protect conscience rights
Euthanasia clinic reprimanded for death of stroke victim
Doctor-assisted death appropriate only after all other choices
exhausted, CMA president says
Woman makes own suicide a part of campaign to change law
Increasing resistance to assisted suicide among U.K. physicians
Baby delivered at 25 weeks gestation in Ireland to avoid death
Canadian Medical Association Board of Directors confirms new
assisted suicide, euthanasia policy
Richard Dawkins: 'Immoral' not to abort Down's foetuses
Health website 'not sinister'
Conscience should guide doctors at end of life
Doctors vote to 'follow their conscience' if assisted suicide
Canadian Medical Association softens stand on assisted suicide
Abortion group targets pro-life doctors, nurses with new
website: New Zealand
Canadian doctors want freedom to choose whether to help terminal
How to ditch the Pill, naturally
Freedom from conscience
I was told to approve a lethal injection, but it violates my
basic medical ethics
Input sought on physicians' conscience rights
Ottawa archbishop among religious urging CPSO not to violate
physicians' conscience rights
3. Recent Postings
Submissions to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
Practice of Medicine- Euthanasia in Quebec
Botched execution sparks outcry in US
Are we willing to make doctors into mere robots?
Medical aid in dying: Court challenge
Swedish midwife denied employment for being pro-life
Canadian Doctors Should Not be Forced to Do Abortions or Provide
O Canada, Glorious and Free!
Pastoral Guidance on the Implementation of the Reproductive
What are the issues in post-mortem sperm retrieval?
When do we lose our human life?
Should governments pay for sex for the disabled?
Ethics should colour doctor's decisions
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.
6. Publications of Interest
Whither Brain Death? The American Journal of Bioethics, 14:8, 3-8,
Cohen IG, Fernandez Lynch H, Curfman GD.
Perspective: When Religious Freedom Clashes with Access to Care. N Engl J Med 2014; 371:596-599 August
14, 2014 DOI:
Clinicians' Involvement in Capital Punishment
Implications. N Engl J Med 371;2 nejm.org july 10, 2014
Perimortem gamete retrieval: should we worry about consent?
J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2013-101727.
Prostitution, disability and prohibition. J Med Ethics
Truog RD, Miller FG.
the Conversation About Brain Death. The American Journal of Bioethics,
14:8, 9-14 (2014) DOI: 10.1080/15265161.2014.925154
Canadian Medical Association discussion of euthanasia and
Bishop expresses concern for freedom of conscience (Dr.
Brendan Leahy, Limerick, Ireland)
When Freedoms Collide (Prof. Helen Alvaré, 2014 Sir
John Graham Lecture, Maxim Institute, New Zealand)
Should doctors have the right to refuse to prescribe birth
control because of their religious beliefs? (Prof. Margaret
Somerville vs. Prof. Arthur Schafer on CBC radio)