Conscientious Objection by Health Care Providers

Conscientious Objection by Health Care Providers Conscientious clauses are federal and regulations and statutes, which protect the rights of health care providers to decline to participate or provide health services that breach their moral or religious beliefs. Conscientious objection has recently become a significant phenomenon in health care systems. Health care providers are constantly being encouraged to participate in new biomedical practices, which may limit the level of acceptability as judged by their moral conscience. Medical issues such as assisted suicide, euthanasia, artificial fertilization, abortion, prescription of contraceptives and experimentation on human embryos are some of the ethical issues that play the rights of health care personnel, pharmacists or physicians to conscientious objection. These issues, which are already present in many codes of medical ethics and professional conduct, are necessities in the modern world, which call for a serious deepening of the applicability, content and understanding of the new hypothesis of conscientious objection, in the context of law and bioethics. A patient’s self-determination and exasperated autonomy, within these practices, has given rise to a new principle of professional integrity to protect the doctor’s conscientious objections if the request of the patient or his or her family appears to defy some fundamental human rights. Therefore, this paper strives to identify and describe the moral and legal criteria under which health care providers may decline or accept to provide healthcare treatments over the objection of patients and/ families.
The Supreme Court’s in Prince v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts states, in 1944 ruled that the rights to the free practice of religion do not include the liberty to expose a patient or a community to communicable diseases, ill health or death (Center for the Study of Religious Freedom, 2001). When issues relating to religious-based conscientious objection arise state governments or courts usually intervene to protect the welfare and health of the affected patient, especially where there is a risk of disease outbreak. For example, in 1991 measles outbreak in Philadelphia, a court order directed all public health officials to immunize six children whose communities were members of a faith-healing congregation, which was identified to be the source of the disease outbreak (Lo, 2009). In such a case, health care personnel had the legal rights to provide healthcare treatments over the objection of the children’s families. Those paediatricians who were from the same communities also had to go against their religious beliefs, and administer vaccine to the affected children because they feared being held liable should unvaccinated children contract this disease, which could have been prevented through vaccination. “Medical neglect” is a legal concept that refers to the failure of a guardian or parent to obtain the required medical care for a child in spite of having the ability to do so (Lo, 2009). According to the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), medical neglect is a type of child neglect and abuse, which opposes the state laws that consist of religious exemptions to children protection statute (Morrison &amp. Monagle, 2009).
Health care personnel with moral objection to certain health care services have the right to inform their supervisors or colleagues to these objections. This is a necessary to minimize the disruption of health care delivery and burdens on other health care providers (Morrison &amp. Monagle, 2009). Conscientious objections may sometimes specify that a medical practitioner, who has appeal to right to the right to refuse to offer a service due to some ethical issues such as religion and culture, must not tamper with the patients’ ability to obtain the service in another place since they recognize the duty not to neglect patients (Wicclair, 2011). This implies that it is professionally unethical for health care providers to alias and rejects the transfer of a patient based on their religious or cultural beliefs.
Center for the Study of Religious Freedom. (2001). Regulating Religion : The Courts and the Free Exercise Clause: The Courts and the Free Exercise Clause. London: Oxford University Press.
Lo, B. (2009). Resolving ethical dilemmas: A guide for clinicians. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams &amp. Wilkins.
Morrison, E. E., &amp. Monagle, J. F. (2009). Health care ethics: Critical issues for the 21st century. Sudbury, Mass: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Wicclair, M. R. (2011). Conscientious objection in health care: An ethical analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.