Physicians' "right of conscience"- beyond politics

J Law Med Ethics. 2010 Spring;38(1):134-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-720X.2010.00473.x.


During the past few months, the discussion over the physicians' "Right of Conscience" (ROC) has been on the rise. The intervention of politics in this issue shifts the discussion to a very specific and narrow area, namely the "reproductive health laws" which bear well-known predisposing attitudes. In this article, the physician's ROC is discussed in the context in which it naturally belongs: the Patient Physician Relationship (PPR). I suggest that the physicians' rights demand is a comprehensible, predictable, and even inevitable step as part of the "evolution" of the PPR. Thus, the most appropriate way to comprehend and tackle the demand for physicians' ROC is within the context of medical professionalism. While searching for practical solutions to the "reproductive health" problems, there is a need to recognize the ethical and practical implications of the change in the PPR and balance between patient and physician rights.

MeSH terms

  • Conscience*
  • Humans
  • Patient Rights / ethics
  • Patient Rights / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Physician-Patient Relations / ethics*
  • Physicians / ethics*
  • Professional Autonomy*
  • Refusal to Treat / ethics*
  • Refusal to Treat / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • United States