Practitioners' First Choice
Practitioners' First Choice

Should medical staff be able to refuse providing treatments at odds with their beliefs?


No. but no with some slight caveats.

So I generally think that individuals should honour their personal beliefs and morals but when that comes into conflict with a patient’s rights to care or a medical community consensus this is where I draw the line. I think medical practitioners with personal or religious beliefs that are in conflict with their duty to provide medical treatment will have to consider whether that particular job or even medicine is right for them. We all exercise choice when we undertake a career or profession.

If the profession looks differently from when you first started then you still have a choice: to find a hospital/practice that aligns with your beliefs or to leave. There is also the field of medical research – if you feel like the intervention you’re refusing to offer could cause more harm than good… prove it! I think conscientious objection is a bit of a lazy way to protest without having to show through evidence the harmful impact of treatment(s) they refuse to provide.

Dr. Uche:

I’ve journeyed with this one and finally arrived at YES. 

I’ve never really considered my autonomous morality as a medic, it has always been more of a professional morality…this has meant that I always saw medics as service providers operating within the realm of guidance, but that never really left much room for consideration of my personal feelings. Am I causing more harm or not? Am I honouring my morality that makes me human; a concept so deeply intertwined with being a medic?

Now, I don’t think that it is wise to consistently overlap one’s personal feelings with any profession, and the GMC has very clear guidelines around this, however, I can understand the conscientious objection taken by some medics. This is especially true around topics that medics perceive to potentially be causing harm. The most obvious area of contention is Termination Of Pregnancy. The decision around life and therefore at what point you harm life has a deeply personal frame of reference.  Quite honestly, if medics did not honour their deep moral convictions we may have a whole new problem waiting to happen; and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to appreciate others’ perspectives on certain issues. 

Make room for it within reason, there are enough of us to have our colleagues’ backs when it happens. 

*Disclaimer: All opinions expressed on this platform are those of the individuals and not representative of any particular institution. This is not to be taken as medical advice.


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