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Conscientious objection by health care professionals - positive or problematic?

Health care professionals' refusals to provide certain medical goods and services that they consider morally objectionable is a well-known and often hotly debated phenomenon. In this review paper for Philosophy Compass, post doc and group member Gry Wester provides an introduction and overview of some of the key issues.

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Certain health care services and goods, although legal and often generally accepted in a society, are by some considered morally problematic. Debates on conscientious objection in health care try to resolve whether and when physicians, nurses and pharmacists should be allowed to refuse to provide medical services and goods because of their ethical or religious beliefs.

These debates have most often focused on issues such as how to balance the interests of patients and health care professionals, and the compatibility of conscientious objection with professional obligations, but it is also possible to think about conscientious objection in terms of how to respond to moral disagreement and the requirements of liberal neutrality.

 

Abstract

 

Certain health care services and goods, although legal and often generally accepted in a society, are by some considered morally problematic. Debates on conscientious objection in health care try to resolve whether and when physicians, nurses and pharmacists should be allowed to refuse to provide medical services and goods because of their ethical or religious beliefs. These debates have most often focused on issues such as how to balance the interests of patients and health care professionals, and the compatibility of conscientious objection with professional obligations, but it is also possible to think about conscientious objection in terms of how to respond to moral disagreement and the requirements of liberal neutrality.

 

Wester G. Conscientious Objection by Health Care Professionals. Philosophy Compass 2015; 10: 427-37.