The Canadian Medical Association is digging in its heels to protect doctors’ right of conscientious objection to euthanasia and assisted suicide, which will soon become legal. In an interview with the National Post, CMA president Chris Simpson said recently, “we simply cannot accept a system that compels physicians to go against their conscience as individuals on something so profound as this.”
Don’t listen to him, warns one of Canada’s most prominent bioethicists. No doctor should have the right to conscientious objection, he says.
Professor Udo Schuklenk, of Queens University and editor-in-chief of the journal Bioethics, delivered a blistering attack on conscientious objection in medical practice in his blog:
The very idea that we ought to countenance conscientious objection in any profession is objectionable. Nobody forces anyone to become a professional. It is a voluntary choice. A conscientious objector in medicine is not dissimilar to a taxi driver who joins a taxi company that runs a fleet of mostly combustion engine cars and who objects on grounds of conscience to drive those cars due to environmental concerns.
Professor Schuklenk puts forward two reasons. First, medicine is a service industry and “Patients are entitled to receive uniform service delivery from health care professionals. They ought not to be subjected to today’s conscientious objection lottery.” This is a particular concern in a country as vast as Canada, where doctors may be scarce in rural areas.
Second, he regards and appeal to conscientious objection as a fig leaf to give privileged protection to practicing Christians. “Conscience clauses today are by and large a concession of special rights to Christian health care professionals, at least in secular Western democracies.”
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