Conscientious refusal and health professionals: Does religion make a difference?

Bioethics. doi: 10.1111/bioe.12059

D. Weinstock

Abstract

Freedom of Conscience and Freedom of Religion should be taken to protect two distinct sets of moral considerations. The former protects the ability of the agent to reflect critically upon the moral and political issues that arise in her society generally, and in her professional life more specifically. The latter protects the individual’s ability to achieve secure membership in a set of practices and rituals that have as a moral function to inscribe her life in a temporally extended narrative. Once these grounds are distinguished, it becomes more difficult to grant healthcare professionals’ claims to religious exemptions on the basis of the latter than it is on the basis of the former. While both sets of considerations generate ‘internal reasons’ for rights to accommodation, the relevant ‘external’ reasons present in the case of claims of moral conscience do not possess analogues in the case of claims of religious conscience. However, the argument applies only to ‘irreducibly religious’ claims, that is to claims that cannot be translated into moral vocabulary. What’s more, there may be reasons to grant the claims of religious persons to exemptions that have to do not with the nature of the claims, but with the beneficial effects that the presence of religious persons may have in the context of the healthcare institutions of multi-faith societies. [Full Text]

Welcome to the wild, wild north

Conscientious Objection Policies Governing Canada’s Medical, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Dental Professions

Bioethics. doi: 10.1111/bioe.12057

J. Shaw, J. Downie

Abstract

In Canada, as in many developed countries, healthcare conscientious objection is growing in visibility, if not in incidence. Yet the country’s health professional policies on conscientious objection are in disarray. The article reports the results of a comprehensive review of policies relevant to conscientious objection for four Canadian health professions: medicine, nursing, pharmacy and dentistry. Where relevant policies exist in many Canadian provinces, there is much controversy and potential for confusion, due to policy inconsistencies and terminological vagueness. Meanwhile, in Canada’s three most northerly territories with significant Aboriginal populations, whose already precarious health is influenced by funding and practitioner shortages, there are major policy gaps applicable to conscientious objection. In many parts of the country, as a result of health professionals’ conscientious refusals, access to some legal health services – including but not limited to reproductive health services such as abortion – has been seriously impeded. Although policy reform on conscientious conflicts may be difficult, and may generate strenuous opposition from some professional groups, for the sake of both patients and providers, such policy change must become an urgent priority. [Full Text]

Am I my profession’s keeper?

Bioethics. doi: 10.1111/bioe.12056

A. Kolers

Abstract

Conscientious refusal is distinguished by its peculiar attitude towards the obligations that the objector refuses: the objector accepts the authority of the institution in general, but claims a right of conscience to refuse some particular directive. An adequate ethics of conscientious objection will, then, require an account of the institutional obligations that the objector claims a right to refuse. Yet such an account must avoid two extremes: ‘anarchism,’ where obligations apply only insofar as they match individual conscience; and ‘totalitarianism,’ where even immoral obligations bind us. The challenge is to explain institutional obligations in such a way that an agent can be obligated to act against conscience, yet can object if the institution’s orders go too far. Standard accounts of institutional obligations rely on individual autonomy, expressed through consent. This paper rejects the Consent model; a better understanding of institutional obligations emerges from reflecting on the intersecting goods produced by institutions and the intersecting autonomy of numerous distinct agents rather than only one. The paper defends ‘Professionalism‘ as a grounding of professional obligations. The professional context can justify acting against conscience but more often that context partly shapes the professional conscience. Yet Professionalism avoids totalitarianism by distinguishing between (mere) injustice and abuse. When institutions are – or we conscientiously believe them to be – merely unjust, their directives still obligate us; when they are abusive, however, they do not. Finally, the paper applies these results to the problem of conscientious refusal in general and specifically to controversial reproduction cases. [Full Text]

Justification for conscience exemptions in health care

Bioethics. doi: 10.1111/bioe.12055

L. Kantymir, C. McLeod

Abstract

Some bioethicists argue that conscientious objectors in health care should have to justify themselves, just as objectors in the military do. They should have to provide reasons that explain why they should be exempt from offering the services that they find offensive. There are two versions of this view in the literature, each giving different standards of justification. We show these views are each either too permissive (i.e. would result in problematic exemptions based on conscience) or too restrictive (i.e. would produce problematic denials of exemption). We then develop a middle ground position that we believe better combines respect for the conscience of healthcare professionals with concern for the duties that they owe to patients. Our claim, in short, is that insofar as objectors should have to justify themselves, they should have to do it according to the standard that we defend rather than according to the standards that others have developed. [Full Text]

Moral distress and moral conflict in clinical ethics

Bioethics. doi: 10.1111/bioe.12064

C. Fourie

Abstract

Much research is currently being conducted on health care practitioners’ experiences of moral distress, especially the experience of nurses. What moral distress is, however, is not always clearly delineated and there is some debate as to how it should be defined. This article aims to help to clarify moral distress. My methodology consists primarily of a conceptual analysis, with especial focus on Andrew Jameton’s influential description of moral distress.

I will identify and aim to resolve two sources of confusion about moral distress: (1) the compound nature of a narrow definition of distress which stipulates a particular cause, i.e. moral constraint, and (2) the distinction drawn between moral dilemma (or, more accurately, moral conflict) and moral distress, which implies that the two are mutually exclusive.

In light of these concerns, I argue that the definition of moral distress should be revised so that moral constraint should not be a necessary condition of moral distress, and that moral conflict should be included as a potential cause of distress. Ultimately, I claim that moral distress should be understood as a specific psychological response to morally challenging situations such as those of moral constraint or moral conflict, or both. [Full Text]