Conscientious refusal and a doctors's right to quit

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 29 (1):75 – 91 (2004)
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Patients sometimes request procedures their doctors find morally objectionable. Do doctors have a right of conscientious refusal? I argue that conscientious refusal is justified only if the doctor's refusal does not make the patient worse off than she would have been had she gone to another doctor in the first place. From this approach I derive conclusions about the duty to refer and facilitate transfer, whether doctors may provide 'moral counseling,' whether doctors are obligated to provide objectionable procedures when no other doctor is available, why the moral consensus among doctors seems relevant even though it does not determine whether something is morally acceptable, and whether doctors should stay out of fields whose standard procedures they find morally unacceptable.



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John K. Davis
California State University, Fullerton

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