The Corner

Health Care

Big Victory for Medical Conscience in Norway

As the bioethics movement’s most prominent members write stridently in favor of stripping medical professionals of conscience rights in the world’s most respected medical journals, as the New York Times shrieks in horror at the Trump Administration’s announcement that it will emphasize enforcement of existing legal protections of conscience, and as a Canadian judge rules that doctors in Ontario must either be complicit in lethal injection euthanasia or get out of medicine altogether, Norway’s Supreme Court has ruled in favor of comity and the human right of conscientious objection in the medical context.

A doctor refused a patient’s request to insert an IUD because it acts as an abortifacient, that is, it prevents the early embryo from attaching to the uterine wall. She objected to this on moral grounds and was fired. She sued. Victory! From the invaluable Bioedge’s report (my emphasis):

In its judgement the Court (PDF) cited a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights:

“... as enshrined in Article 9, freedom of thought, conscience and religion is one of the foundations of a ‘democratic society’ within the meaning of the Convention. In its religious dimension it is one of the most vital elements that go to make up the identity of believers and their conception of life, but it is also a precious asset for atheists, agnostics, sceptics and the unconcerned. The pluralism indissociable from a democratic society, which has been dearly won over the centuries, depends on it.”

Exactly.

We live in a morally polyglot society. Medicine and healthcare are at ground zero of these societal moral disputes. If we are going to live together and continue to be served by the best and brightest doctors, nurses, and others–rather than those with the “right” moral beliefs–legal protections for, and societal respect of, medical conscience are an absolute necessity.

Bravo, Norway!

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