Submission to the World Medical Association

Public Consultation on a draft devised version of the International Code of Medical Ethics

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre is the oldest national bioethics centre in the United Kingdom, established in 1977 by the Roman Catholic Archbishops of England and Wales. It was originally known as The Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics and was situated in London before moving to Oxford. The Centre engages with the moral questions arising in clinical practice and biomedical research. It brings to bear on those questions principles of natural law, virtue ethics, and the teaching of the Catholic Church, and seeks to develop the implications of that teaching for emerging fields of practice. The Centre engages in scholarly dialogue with academics and practitioners of other traditions. It contributes to public policy debates as well as to debates and consultations within the Church.

A key issue: conscientious objection

For the first time this draft Code introduces the idea of “conscientious objection”:

Paragraph 27 reads:

Physicians have an ethical obligation to minimise disruption to patient care. Conscientious objection must only be considered if the individual patient is not discriminated against or disadvantaged, the patient’s health is not endangered, and undelayed continuity of care is ensured through effective and timely referral to another qualified physician.*

* This paragraph will be debated in greater detail at the WMA’s dedicated conference on the subject of conscientious objection in 2021 or 2022. However, comments on this paragraph are also welcome at this time.

Unfortunately, this is deeply problematic as a statement of the rights of conscience in medicine. In the first place it utterly fails to establish the duty of doctors to object to practices and procedures that are unconscionable because harmful, discriminatory, unjust or unethical. The right to conscientious objection is based on the duty to be conscientious which is fundamental to medical ethics. . . continue reading

U.K. pharmacy regulator abandons proposal to strip conscience protections

CatholicPhilly/Catholic News Service

Simon Caldwell

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) — In a U-turn of proposed policy, Britain’s pharmacy regulator has declared that Catholic pharmacists should not be forced to dispense lethal drugs against their consciences.

The General Pharmaceutical Council, the regulatory body that sets professional standards for the industry throughout the country, has backed away from controversial proposals to abolish the right of people with religious convictions to conscientiously object to dispensing the morning-after pill, contraceptives and hormone-blocking drugs used by transsexual patients.

In new guidance issued June 22, it says: “Professionals have the right to practice in line with their religion, personal values or beliefs as long as they act in accordance with equalities and human rights law and make sure that person-centered care is not compromised.” . . . [Full text]


UK church leaders: Pharmacists could be forced to dispense lethal drugs


Simon Caldwell

The General Pharmaceutical Council in the UK announced in a statement that personal values and beliefs should not compromise person-centered care. The statement caused concern among bishops and Catholic organizations that British pharmacists could be forced to dispense lethal drugs under plans to prohibit conscientious objection on the grounds of religion.

MANCHESTER, England – The Catholic Church has predicted that British pharmacists could be forced to dispense lethal drugs under plans to prohibit conscientious objection on the grounds of religion. . . [Full text]

Doctors who oppose morning-after pill on conscience grounds face qualifications bar

Guidelines confirm that doctors and nurses who oppose controversial emergency contraception on ‘moral or religious’ grounds cannot receive key specialist qualifications

The Telegraph

John Bingham

Doctors and nurses who object to providing controversial emergency contraception on moral or religious grounds are being barred from specialist professional qualifications under official guidelines.

They class Roman Catholics and others motivated by pro-life beliefs as “ineligible” for important qualifications provided by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) even if they complete the training programme.

It led to accusations that the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, a branch of the RCOG, is unfairly discriminating against medical staff who act on grounds of conscience. [Full Text]