An Irish doctor fails in attempt to be a conscientious objector to Covid-19 policies

An Irish general practitioner who described the Covid-19 pandemic as a hoax, refused to refer sick patients for testing and refused to administer vaccines was suspended by the Medical Council in March.

Dr Gerard Waters was vocal in his criticisms of government policy. “My problem primarily is that I don’t think the pathogenicity of Covid is sufficiently severe to (a) cause lockdowns or (b). use a messenger RNA [vaccine],” he said.

His defence against suspension was that he was a conscientious objector – an interesting argument which is more familiar in connection with abortion, sterilisation or euthanasia.

The case went to Ireland’s High Court but the judgement was only released late in April.

The court declared that it had to balance the right of the public to be protected from a doctor who posed a risk to their welfare against the right of the medical practitioner to continue in practice until an adverse decision was made against him.

Dr Waters claimed he was a “conscientious objector” under the Medical Council’s guide to professional conduct and ethics. However, the court held that it this was unlikely, particularly because Dr Waters had not bothered to inform his patients of his conscientious objection.

Furthermore, the court said that it was unlikely that conscientious objection could shield him from the obligation to follow public health measures.

Suspension of a doctor’s right to practice his profession is a drastic measure, but the court said that it was necessary. Dr Waters’s patients would “be at significant risk of remaining undiagnosed and untreated or having their diagnosis or treatment delayed,” the court said.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge  

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | conscientious objection

This article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

 Search BioEdge

 Subscribe to BioEdge newsletter
rss Subscribe to BioEdge RSS feed

comments powered by Disqus