Project Logo

Protection of Conscience Project

Service, not Servitude

Update 2018-03-01

1 March, 2018

Covering the period from 1 January to 28 February, 2018

1.  By Region/Country

Developments relevant to freedom of conscience. International - Belgium - Canada - Ireland - Netherlands - United Kingdom - United States

2.  News Items

Links to news summaries.

3.  Recent Postings

Links to resources added to Project site.

4.  Action Items

Support protection of conscience initiatives near you.

5.  Conferences/Papers

Seminars, conferences and workshops relevant to conscience advocacy.

6.  Publications of Interest

Relevant to freedom of conscience issues.

7.  Video

Presentations, discussions, etc.

8.  Audio

Presentations, discussions, etc.

1.  By Region/Country
Visit the Project News/Blog for details.

The President of the World Federation of the Catholic Medical Associations has disclosed that the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and Royal Dutch Medical Association (RDMA) have asked the World Medical Association to change its policy against euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. The CMA/RDMA proposal is not ethically neutral, but would involve a radical revision of the ethical position of the WMA in favour of the practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide. It would involve acceptance of the procedures as consistent with medical ethics, or at least not so inconsistent as to preclude tolerance of the practices.


Dr. Ludo Van Opdenbosch has resigned from the Belgian euthanasia commission because, he said, the commission failed to take action after a dementia patient was euthanasized at the family's request but without the patient's consent, and the commission routinely ignores the law.  Dr. Van Opdenbosch states that he supports euthanasia, but believes that the commission is acting improperly because its members include many "leading euthanasia practitioners" who protect each other.  According to the two co-chairs of the commission, the case that sparked Dr. Van Opdenbosch's resignation was improperly reported as euthanasia by the physician involved.  They insist that the physician applied palliative sedation, which is intended to relieve symptoms but not kill the patient.  However, this explanation suggests that palliative sedation was applied in order to render the patient unconscious so that she could be starved and dehydrated to death rather than killed by lethal infusion.  

Flag CanadaCanada

Some health regions in British Columbia are attempting to compel hospices to provide or permit euthanasia and assisted suicide on their premises, demanding compliance based on the fact that they receive public subsidies.  Denominational hospitals are facing similar pressure.  One British Columbia euthanasia/assisted suicide (EAS) practitioner secretly entered a Jewish nursing home with the help of family members and lethally injected a resident, after it was made clear that the procedures would not be permitted on the premises. Resistance to euthanasia and assisted suicide by denominational facilities has been described as "ridiculous."   In Quebec, the majority of nurses are reported to support extending the practice to dementia patients.  An Ontario court has approved the state medical regulator's policy that requires objecting physicians to refer patients for morally contested procedures, including euthanasia and assisted suicide; the ruling may be appealed.  A coalition supporting freedom of conscience for physicians is campaigning in Ontario and Nova Scotia to secure public support for protective measures.  Nova Scotia has introduced a toll-free phone number for women seeking abortion, which may relieve pressure on objecting physicians while ensuring access to the service. 

Flag KenyaIreland

The current abortion law permits abortion to save the life of a woman who asserts that she will commit suicide if she does not have an abortion.  Practical difficulties are reported to have arisen in such cases, apparently because many psychiatrists are unwilling to participate in the process, though they are said to have clear guidelines.  Abortion advocates and general practitioners are beginning to discuss plans for abortion provision in the event that a referendum approves the removal of the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution, which, in recognizing the right to life of an infant in utero, effectively prohibits most abortions. The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists supports repeal of the amendment.

Flag KenyaNetherlands

Medical ethicist Berna van Baarsen has resigned from one of the Netherlands' regional euthanasia control committees because the country's euthanasia law is now being interpreted to allow euthanaia of dementia patients, an increasing number of whom are being lethally injected.

FLag UKUnited Kingdom

Baroness Nuala O'Loan has introduced the Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill (HL Bill 14) in the House of Lords.  The bill applies to physicians, nurses, midwives and pharmacists and extends protection for the exercise of freedom of conscience with respect to participating in abortion, withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment and activities involving human embryos.  What is noteworthy is that participating "includes any supervision, delegation, planning or supporting of staff in respect of that activity," which is broad enough to capture referral, and corrective of a British Supreme Court ruling against two midwives in Scotland.  The court held that managing abortion provision did not count as participation under the Abortion Act (1967).  The bill has passed second reading and has moved into committee.

Flag USAUnited States

A new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division has been formed in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to ensure the enforcement of laws protecting freedom of conscience and religion.  The development is the latest in a see-saw battle between successive U.S. administratrions.  A rule involving the Department enacted by outgoing President George Bush to protect freedom of conscience among health care workers was eviscerated by the Obama administration, which enacted a 'contraceptive mandate' to compel even those who object to contraception to pay for contraceptive health insurance coverage for employees.  Much of the criticism of the new division is vitriolic even by American standards, apparently a reflecting particular animosity toward the Trump administration. By the end of February the division had already received over 300 complaints.  An assisted suicide bill in Massachusetts includes a protection of conscience provision that is vague and unsatisfactory.  

2.  News Items

You can search news items by date, country and topic in the Project News/Blog.   

Protection of Conscience Project

Professor Lynn Wardle has retired from Brigham Young University and has left the Project Advisory Board, of which he was the first member when the Projectd began in 1999. Three new advisors have joined the board over the last two months.

  • Prof. David Oderberg, professor of philosophy at the University of Reading, UK,  is the author of many articles in metaphysics, ethics, philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, and other areas.  He has been working on freedom of conscience in health care over the last few years.
  • Dr. Mary Neal is Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.  She researches, writes, and teaches in the fields of Healthcare Law and Bioethics and a member of the British Medical Association’s Medical Ethics Committee.
  • Dr. Iain Benson is Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney and Extraordinary Professor of Law, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein South Africa.  He is an academic, lecturer and practising lawyer specialising in pluralism and human rights.  His particular focus is on freedoms of association, conscience and religion, the nature of pluralism, multi-culturalism and relationships between law, religion and culture.

Rethinking Rural Health Solutions To Save Patients And Communities

What happens after Repeal?

Medical professionals divided on bill allowing them to refuse to perform abortions, other procedures

Conscientious objection is an important medical principle

New HHS office that enforces health workers' religious rights received 300 complaints in a month

World medical body pushes back on conscience fight

Pregnant women in rural B.C. urged to leave town to deliver

Why we must protect the conscience rights of medical professionals

Munich university remembers executed students: "Law changes, the conscience doesn't"

Belgium’s euthanasia commission under fire after shock letter by whistleblower

Euthanasia dispute in Belgium: When do doctors cross a line?

Politicians call on public to oppose Fraser Health making hospices offer euthanasia

O'Loan submits Bill that would allow medics to refuse to carry out abortions

Catholic Medical Association Joins with 25,000 Physicians Fighting Proposed Global Abortion Policy to Strip Conscience Rights Protections

At Veterans' Homes, Aid-in-Dying Isn’t an Option

Why this is a vital matter of conscience

The midwife hounded out of her job after 30 years (and 5,000 babies) because she refused to supervise abortions

Court decision on assisted suicide referrals opens door for other challenges

It is not right to force medics to act against their beliefs

Home abortions 'could see more objections from GPs and pharmacists'

Medical professionals will be able to object to providing terminations

Delta hospice rebels against Fraser Health's mandate to provide medical assistance in dying

GPs will seek new State contract for abortion services

Doctor's role in abortion law 'must be clarified'

Conscientious objection and withdrawal of life support

Doctors want palliative care for terminally ill patients

Canadian court tells doctors they must refer for euthanasia

Church calls for Scottish Bill to back medics' conscience rights

Doctors Condemn Massachusetts Suicide Bill

Nova Scotia launches toll-free phone line for women considering an abortion


Doctors who morally object to treatments must refer patients elsewhere

Changes to abortion provision means NHS staff need more legal protection

Ontario court rules doctors who oppose assisted death must refer patients

Why would my terminally ill father be denied a medically assisted death?

'Pro-life medics must have conscientious objection rights'

Conscientious Objection: A Quick(ish) Answer

Suicidal women struggle to get second opinion when seeking an abortion

First compensation claim for compulsory sterilisation in Japan

Psychiatrists given clear guidelines on abortion law: HSE

Christian doctors and other medical staff opposing abortion face serious disadvantage, lords told

Dutch euthanasia regulator quits over dementia killings

BC recorded 188 medically assisted deaths; 77 on Vancouver Island

Palliative care nurses quit 'houses of euthanasia'

Complaint filed with federal agency by Rockford nurse over abortion mandates

British conscience protection bill: second reading set for 26 January, 2018

Ontario: make a call for conscience

Quebec nurses back euthanasia for the demented to the hilt: survey

'I thought it was ridiculous': Religious facilities opposing assisted death leave patients in a bind

Polish MPs back even tougher restrictions on abortion

Obstetricians and gynaecologists back Eighth committee's recommendations

Doctors set to fight global abortion policy

How does assisting with suicide affect physicians?

Jewish care home accuses doctor of 'sneaking in and killing someone'

Pro-life Pregnancy Center Files HHS Complaint Over Illinois Law that Requires Them to Promote Abortion

UNM suspends physician’s research

3.  Recent Postings
News releases

Professor David Oderberg joins Protection of Conscience Project Advisory Board

Protection of Conscience Project welcomes new advisor from Scotland

International constitutional and human rights lawyer joins Protection of Conscience Project Advisory Board

Canadian court rules that state can compel participation in homicide and suicide

Ontario court ruling "a significant loss for the entire health care system"

Divisional Court Accepts Religious and Conscientious Infringement on Ontario Doctors

HHS Announces New Conscience and Religious Freedom Division

Court Holds Health Care Conscience Act Trumps County's Immunity Claim


World Medical Association urged to change policy against euthanasia, assisted suicide:Canadian/Royal Dutch Medical Association want censure dropped

Apparently it's OK to violate doctors' Charter rights

The War on the Hippocratic Oath

The Alarming Trend Of Bullying Hospitals And Hospices Into Assisted Suicide

Medical Establishment Opposes Conscience Rights

No, Politico, Conscience Protections Are Neither 'So-Called' Nor 'Controversial'

Proposed laws

Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill (HL Bill 14)

Massachusetts End of Life Options Act HB 1194 (2017) 

4.  Action Items

None noted.

5.  Conferences/Papers

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.

Call for papers:


6.  Publications of Interest

Nurses' perspectives on whether medical aid in dying should be accessible to incompetent patients with dementia: findings from a survey conducted in Quebec, Canada

Physicians are not solely responsible for ensuring access to medical assistance in dying

Temporal Trends in Gender-Affirming Surgery Among Transgender Patients in the United States 

7.  Video

None noted

8.  Audio

None noted.