Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

My Conscience May Be My Guide, but You May Not Need to Honor It

Abstract
Abstract:

A number of healthcare professionals assert a right to be exempt from performing some actions currently designated as part of their standard professional responsibilities. Most advocates claim that they should be excused from these duties simply by averring that they are conscientiously opposed to performing them. They believe that they need not explain or justify their decisions to anyone, nor should they suffer any undesirable consequences of such refusal.

Those who claim this right err by blurring or conflating three issues about the nature and role of conscience, and its significance in determining what other people should permit them to do (or not do). Many who criticize those asserting an exemption conflate the same questions and blur the same distinctions, if not expressly, by failing to acknowledge that sometimes a morally serious agent should not do what she might otherwise be expected to do. Neither side seems to acknowledge that in some cases both claims are true. I identify these conflations and specify conditions in which a professional might reasonably refuse to do what she is required to do. Then I identify conditions in which the public should exempt a professional from some of her responsibilities. I argue that professionals should refuse far less often than most advocates do . . . and that they should be even less frequently exempt. Finally, there are compelling reasons why we could not implement a consistent policy giving advocates what they want, likely not even in qualified form.

Copyright
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

RE Lawrence , FA Curlin . Clash of definitions: Controversies about conscience in medicine. The American Journal of Bioethics 2007 Dec 17;7(12):1014.

J Raz . Authority, law and morality. The Monist 1985;68(3):295324.

T Quill . Death and dignity: A case of individualized decision making. New England Journal of Medicine 1991;324:691–4.

EI Kelly . Publicity. In: H LaFollette , ed. International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Malden, MA: Blackwell; 2013.

JM Doris . Talking to Our Selves: Reflection, Ignorance, and Agency. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2015.

D Dunning . Self-Insight: Roadblocks and Detours on the Path to Knowing Thyself. New York: Psychology Press; 2005.

E Pronin . The introspection illusion. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 2009;41:167.

E Pronin , MB Kugler . Valuing thoughts, ignoring behavior: The introspection illusion as a source of the bias blind spot. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 2007;43(4):565–78.

MR Wicclair . Conscientious Objection in Health Care: An Ethical Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2011.

DW Brock . Conscientious refusal by physicians and pharmacists: Who is obligated to do what, and why? Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 2008;29(3):187200.

FA Curlin , RE Lawrence , MH Chin , JD Lantos . Religion, conscience, and controversial clinical practices. New England Journal of Medicine 2007;356(6):593600.

MP Combs , RM Antiel , JC Tilburt , PS Mueller , FA Curlin . Conscientious refusals to refer: Findings from a national physician survey. Journal of Medical Ethics 2011 July 1;37(7):397401.

C Meyers , RD Woods . Conscientious objection? Yes, but make sure it is genuine. American Journal of Bioethics 2007;7(6):1920.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics
  • ISSN: 0963-1801
  • EISSN: 1469-2147
  • URL: /core/journals/cambridge-quarterly-of-healthcare-ethics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords: