Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Silencing the Conscience of Medical Professionals

John Mallon blasts the New England Journal of Medicine for publishing an article by a "bioethics" professor:

What are the limits of conscience? Can there be any limits on conscience? Professor R. Alta Charo, who teaches law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin Law and Medical Schools in Madison, thinks there should be, and that the law should require health care professionals to violate their consciences in certain cases, and has written an article to that effect in the June 16 New England Journal of Medicine, one of the most prestigious peer-reviewed medical journals in the world, which as such, ought to be scientific and objective.

He's talking about the professor's objection to allowing a medical professional to refuse to refer a patient to another professional to obtain a "service" to which the original professional objects to on moral grounds. (Although the professor doesn't use the word "moral.")

Read the whole article but I was particularly struck by this nugget:

Charo apparently believes that if a physician has a moral objection to performing an abortion the needs of the physician's conscience are met in merely refusing to perform it himself or herself, but then they should be required by law to make a referral to a physician who will perform the abortion.

Evidently this professor of ethics has no idea what conscience means.

In other words, imagine that, in the not-to-distant future, it were legal for a physician to shoot a patient dead if the patient so requested. Charo believes a scrupulous physician may say to a patient, "No, I don't do that." but then would be required to say, "But, here, go to my colleague across the street, she will gladly shoot you to end your misery."