The conscience debate: resources for rapprochement from the problem’s perceived source

Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 29 (3):151-160 (2008)
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This article critically evaluates the conception of conscience underlying the debate about the proper place and role of conscience in the clinical encounter. It suggests that recovering a conception of conscience rooted in the Catholic moral tradition could offer resources for moving the debate past an unproductive assertion of conflicting rights, namely, physicians’ rights to conscience versus patients’ rights to socially and legally sanctioned medical interventions. It proposes that conscience is a necessary component of the moral life in general and a necessary resource for maintaining a coherent sense of moral agency. It demonstrates that an earlier and intellectually richer conception of conscience, in contrast with common contemporary formulations, makes the judgments of conscience accountable to reason, open to critique, and protected from becoming a bastion for bigotry, idiosyncrasy, and personal bias.



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