Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Analysis And Comment Ethics

Conscientious objection in medicine

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 02 February 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:294

Rapid Response:

A bit more context

I returned to this extraordinary article today. These are the words
of Richard III in Shakespeare's play as he goes out to fight his last

"Let not our babbling dreams affright our souls,
For conscience is a word that cowards use,
Devised at first to keep the strong in awe."

Richard has just been visited in his sleep by the ghosts of those he
has murdered on the route to power and in remaining there: Henry VI, the
Duke of Clarence (his brother), Lord Rivers, Lord Grey, Lord Hastings, the
Princes in the tower, his wife Anne, and the Duke of Buckingham.
Juxtaposed with conscience is naked power.

I have a few questions.

How could an Oxford philosopher claim authority from a line ripped
out of context in this way, as no undergraduate literature student would

How can we justify any authority except through continuing open moral

Do we really live in an age in which we can confidently defer to the
state and its servants?

And how is the Uehiro Foundation funded - a subject upon which I can
find no information?

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

31 December 2008
John Stone
London N22