May 24, 2024

Government too lax on conscientious objectors, complains BMA

The British Medical Association and the UK body which disciplines doctors have clashed over conscientious objection. The General Medical Council is drafting new guidelines on which treatments doctors must provide and which they can refuse on ethical grounds. However, the BMA claims that the new guidelines go far beyond a doctor’s right to opt out of certain life-and-death procedures such as abortion, contraception and withdrawal of life support. It wants a list of clearly defined procedures.

“This guidance is confusing and inconsistent and will not benefit doctors or patients,” says the chairman of the BMA’s medical ethics committee, Tony Calland. “On the one hand doctors are being advised not to discriminate on the basis of their personal beliefs regarding a patient’s gender, sexual orientation, or race, but on the other hand the guidance seems to give doctors a mandate to opt out of any procedure to which they have an ethical objection. The BMA is extremely concerned about how far these objections could extend. For example, could a doctor refuse to refer a lesbian couple for fertility treatment, refuse to carry out a sexual health test on a homosexual, or object to treat a Jehovah’s Witness who has refused a blood transfusion?”