April 12, 2024

NEJM opposes conscientious objection for doctors

We need more selfless professionalism

The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine opposes conscientious
objection to abortion and contraception in the US. In a stinging editorial,
Julie Cantor, of UCLA School of Law, says that selfless professionalism must be
restored to medical practice after years of "conscience creep" under the Bush
administration. She backs President Obamas recent move to rescind Federal
regulations which allow conscientious objection.

This state of flux presents an opportunity to reconsider the scope of
conscience in health care. When broadly defined, conscience is a poor
touchstone; it can result in a rule that knows no bounds. Indeed, it seems that
our problem is not insufficient tolerance, but too much. We have created a state
of ‘conscience creep’ in which all behavior becomes acceptable…

Medicine needs to embrace a brand of professionalism that demands less
self-interest, not more. Conscientious objection makes sense with conscription,
but it is worrisome when professionals who freely chose their field parse care
and withhold information that patients need. As the gatekeepers to medicine,
physicians and other health care providers have an obligation to choose
specialties that are not moral minefields for them… Federal laws may make room
for the rights of conscience, but health care providers and all those whose jobs
affect patient care should cast off the cloak of conscience when patients’ needs
demand it. ~ NEJM, Mar