Appeal succeeds in Scotland: freedom of conscience upheld for midwives

A panel of judges of the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Scotland, has ruled in favour of two midwives appealing a 2012 decision by a judge of the same court.  Lady Dorrian,  Lord Mackay of Drumadoon and Lord McEwan have ruled that the midwifery sisters, Mary Doogan, and Concepta Wood, cannot be compelled to supervise the provison of abortion by the National Health Services of Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

The two women were labour ward co-ordinators at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow and had long identified themselves as having conscientious objection to abortion.  However, in 2007, when the labour ward was made responsible for abortions, they were ordered to supervise, support and delegate staff providing the procedure.  They challenged the order as a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights on the grounds that it made them morally complicit in abortion by requiring their participation in the process of providing it.

The appelate judges said, “In our view the right of conscientious objection extends not only to the actual medical or surgical termination but to the whole process of treatment given for that purpose.” [Text of the ruling]

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is considering an appeal of the decision. [Herald Scotland] [The Telegraph]




5 thoughts on “Appeal succeeds in Scotland: freedom of conscience upheld for midwives”

  1. The issue of culpable participation in a morally controversial procedure has been considered by the American Medical Association in its policy on capital punishment. It forbids physician participation in executions, and defines participation as
    (1) an action which would directly cause the death of the condemned;
    (2) an action which would assist, supervise, or contribute to the ability of another individual to directly cause the death of the condemned;
    (3) an action which could automatically cause an execution to be carried out on a condemned prisoner.
    Among the actions identified by the AMA as “participation” in executions are the prescription or administration of tranquillizers or other drugs as part of the procedure, directly or indirectly monitoring vital signs, rendering technical advice or consulting with the executioners, and even (except at the request of the condemned, or in a non-professional capacity) attending or observing an execution. See American Medical Association Policy E-2.06: Capital Punishment)

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