Intended for healthcare professionals


Conscientious refusal to assist with abortion

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: (Published 10 September 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:622
  1. D Dooley

    Claims of conscience by doctors and nurses almost always relate to substantial moral issues that touch closely on their identity and integrity.1 Abortion is such an issue. Agreement among reasonable and sincere individuals often seems beyond reach. Ethical reasoning promises no conclusive resolution but might constructively help us to understand the sources of disagreement and search for shared principles in the differences.2

    The issues raised by abortion cannot be restricted to the simple contrast between the rights of a woman to control her reproduction and the rights of the fetus to protection from intentional harm.3,4 The discussion has to take account of fundamental beliefs - religious, cultural, feminist, and political.5 A recognition of the complexity of beliefs about abortion is essential in asking whether health …

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