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Understanding freedom of conscience

by Brian Bird, Policy Options, 2 August 2017

Conscience is about living in alignment with our moral judgments, regardless of where they come from.

If moral freedom is what freedom of conscience protects, why we protect this freedom boils down to the fact that conscience touches on core moral commitments that sustain our identity and integrity — who I am and what I stand for.  Professionals faced with a crisis of conscience have two unattractive choices: resign or violate these commitments. If they choose the latter, they commit a harmful act of self-betrayal.  The concept of “moral injury” has been studied in the context of military personnel who return home after committing acts on the battlefield that violated their moral compass. Moral injury can also occur in less harrowing circumstances.  A physician in Ontario, Natalia Novosedlik,  revealed in an interview that she violated her conscience by making an effective referral — a decision that, after the fact, caused a “really internally divisive experience” for her.

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Politicians wrestle with doctors’ consciences in Victoria

by Paul Russell, MercatorNet, 20 April 2017

Would it be an “obstruction” if a doctor actively attempted to dissuade a person away from assisted suicide or euthanasia – even if only for a short time – for the sake of trying a different approach to their illness or their pain management? The article is silent on this as I expect will be the report. Yet precisely that kind of ethical and moral disuassion saved the life of Janette Hall in Oregon who has survived her prognosis by 14 years after taking the sound advice of her doctor.

Could it not also be the case that even a doctor who held no such conscientious objection might not fall foul of “obstruction” by way of wise advice to the effect that maybe waiting for a little while – for a myriad of good reasons – might not be a better course of action?

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