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Healthcare Institution’s Right of Conscience

Respect for conscientiously held beliefs of individuals and for individual differences is an essential aspect of our free society. In the words of Thomas Jefferson: "No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority."


In healthcare the right of choice of moral refusal is foundational and applies to all participants, including patients and healthcare professionals. Healthcare by its nature cannot be morally neutral, as it is actively concerned with human health and need. Issues of conscience arise when a proposed medical or surgical intervention conflicts with the deeply-held personal beliefs and values of the patient or the healthcare professional. AAME believes that in such circumstances Rights of Conscience have priority.

Healthcare institutions have the right to refuse to provide services that are contrary to their foundational beliefs.

  • Healthcare institutions have the obligation to disclose the services they would refuse to give.
  • Healthcare institutions should not be penalized, fined or subjected to loss of public funding as a result of exercising their right of conscience.


AAME affirms that healthcare professionals' primary obligation in our society is to serve humanity. AAME believes that the healthcare professional’s conscience should be informed by available evidence and the standards of one's community or tradition, and its conclusions reached according to the dictates of his or her own careful reasoning, reflection on personal experience, worldview, and spirituality.

AAME believes that preservation of the moral integrity of the healthcare professions, including respect for professionals' right of conscience, is in everyone's best interest.