Bioethics 32 (2):126-131 (2018)

Jonathan A. Hughes
Keele University
In a recent article in this journal, Savulescu and Schuklenk defend and extend their earlier arguments against a right to medical conscientious objection in response to criticisms raised by Cowley. I argue that while it would be preferable to be less accommodating of medical conscientious than many countries currently are, Savulescu and Schuklenk's argument that conscientious objection is ‘simply unprofessional’ is mistaken. The professional duties of doctors should be defined in relation to the interests of patients and society, and for reasons set out in this article, these may support limited accommodation of conscientious objection on condition that it does not impede access to services. Moreover, the fact that conscientious objection appears to involve unjustifiable compromise from the objector's point of view is not a reason for society not to offer that compromise. Arguing for robust enforcement of the no-impediment condition, rather than opposing conscientious objection in principle, may be a more effective way of addressing the harms resulting from an over-permissive conscientious objection policy.
Keywords complicity  compromise  conscientious objection  professional duty  professionalism
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DOI 10.1111/bioe.12410
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