A physician with or without moral integrity?
No one wants a doctor without moral integrity. But we do not agree about the nature of morality except perhaps that we ought not to do to others what we do not wish to be done to us. No one therefore has the right to destroy the moral integrity of another person, including the moral integrity of the physician.
In a rights based society with patient-centered practices of medicine, it is the duty of a democracy to protect every view of morality, both of patients and of medical practitioners who have moral or religious objections to particular treatments and services.
The Need for a Hippocratic Registry
For 2000 years the medical world had a moral consensus through the Hippocratic tradition, but, sadly, today there is no possibility of agreement about abortion, infanticide, euthanasia. For some, these things are services, for others they constitute murder. We are on the brink of needing two separate systems of medical care. We have no longer a moral consensus as the basis for conduct. Secularists and Christians (Hippocratic physicians) have incommensurable codes of conduct since secularists deny the existence of God.
There is an urgent need for physicians wanting to practice Hippocratic medicine to establish a national and international identity in order to preserve their rights to conscience and their integrity as physicians. Hippocratic physicians cannot become agents of death even when this position conflicts with patient autonomy. Logically, whoever has the right to kill is the one who is all-powerful and cancels someone else’s rights. For autonomy to avoid anarchy, it must be under justice, determined by the law. And yet, internationally, abortion on demand is being seen as standard care and a fundamental right in reproductive health programs. Euthanasia and physician assisted suicide have also been made legal under some jurisdictions. We need to defend medical students and medical practitioners who are under increasing pressure to participate in such procedures.
Practitioners from many faiths are practicing Hippocratic medicine. A strong Hippocratic Registry that is international will be able to identify these physicians and students for two reasons: to explain and emphasize the characteristics of Hippocratic medicine and to form a network of like-minded physicians throughout the world.
What are protection of conscience laws and conscience clauses?
Protection of conscience laws ensure that people cannot be forced to facilitate practices or procedures to which they object for reasons of conscience. These may include abortion, capital punishment, contraception, sterilization, artificial reproduction, euthanasia, assisted suicide, human experimentation, torture, etc. An adequate protection of conscience law should protect conscientious objectors from coercive hiring or employment practices, discrimination and other forms of punishment or pressure. It should also include protection from civil liability.
Conscience clauses are usually less comprehensive than protection of conscience laws and afford varying degrees of protection for conscientious objectors. They may appear in statutes or in the policies of organizations or institutions.
Why are protection of conscience laws and conscience clauses needed?
Protection of conscience laws and conscience clauses are needed because powerful interests are inclined to force health care workers and others to participate, directly or indirectly, in morally controversial procedures. Physicians, nurses, pharmacists and others have been denied employment, dismissed, or penalized because of objections to abortion, contraception or the morning-after pill. The same pressure will almost certainly be applied to force conscientious objectors to participate in reproductive technology, eugenic screening, and in euthanasia and assisted suicide, particularly where such things are legal or are tolerated.