An revealing new study in the Journal of Medical Ethics examines the attitudes of medical students towards conscientious objection. The study, conducted by a group of researchers from the University of Oslo, canvased the views of 531 fifth and sixth year medical students in Norway. Students were asked about a range of procedures including abortion, euthanasia, ultrasound in the setting of prenatal diagnosis and assisted reproduction for same sex-couples. Students views varied significantly depending on the issue.
62% of respondents said they would object to participating in euthanasia – a surprisingly high proportion considering that the majority of Norwegians are said to support legalising euthanasia.
A far smaller number said they would object to participating in abortions (between 12.5% and 19%, depending on the stage of pregnancy and whether the foetus had disabilities).
Only a small number of students said they would object to referring patients for abortions (4.9%), and just 10.2% said that they would tolerate other doctors refusing to refer.
Norway has strict regulations on conscientious objection to abortion. Doctors are required by law to refer patients to abortionists, even if they have moral reservations.
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