Toward accommodating physicians’ conscientious objections: an argument for public disclosure.

J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2013-101731

T.D. Harter


This paper aims to demonstrate how public disclosure can be used to balance physicians’ conscientious objections with their professional obligations to patients – specifically respect for patient autonomy and informed consent. It is argued here that physicians should be permitted to exercise conscientious objections, but that they have a professional obligation to provide advance notification to patients about those objections. It is further argued here that public disclosure is an appropriate and ethically justifiable limit to the principle of advance notification. The argument for publicly disclosing physicians’ conscientious objections is made in this paper by discussing three practical benefits of public disclosure in medicine, and then addressing how publicly disclosing physicians’ conscientious objections is not an undue invasion of privacy. Three additional concerns with public disclosure of physicians’ conscientious objections are briefly addressed – potential harassment of physicians, workplace discrimination, and mischaracterising physicians’ professional aptitude – concluding that each of these concerns requires further deliberation in the realm of business ethics.
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