Healthcare Professional’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.
Conscience lies at the heart of the healthcare professional's commitment to honesty, compassion, and ownership of responsibility to prevent harm and is inseparable from the moral integrity, hence the trustworthiness, of the healthcare professional.
All healthcare professionals have the right to refuse to participate in situations or procedures that they believe to be morally wrong and/or harmful to the patient or others. In such circumstances, healthcare professionals have no moral obligation to refer to someone willing to perform the procedure, but they do have an obligation to ensure that the patient’s records are transferred to the healthcare professional of the patient’s choice.
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.