Whilst the Canadian Parliament is in the process of drafting a law authorising assisted suicide and euthanasia (see The Ottawa government starts the journey towards assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia), some doctors are voicing their concerns: will they be obliged to apply the law or refer patients to a colleague? A lively debate on conscientious objection is emerging.
Do and will doctors have the right to call on their “moral conscience” to refuse to apply legal procedures?
In the Journal of Medical Ethics, however, several influential bioethicists are calling for the demands of the conscience clause to be overlooked on the grounds that it would “affect patients’ rights”. According to the bioethicists, doctors have signed an agreement with society. In return for their lucrative monopoly in “providing an essential public service”, patients are entitled to legal consideration from them. If a doctor feels ill at ease, then he/she should leave the profession, they believe. Moving on, they explain that the law is the “public conscience”. If the law changes then conscience must change with it.
Note from Gènéthique: Conscientious objection, tolerance and totalitarianism