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J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/jme.2011.042770
  • Law, ethics and medicine

Conscientious objection in medical students: a questionnaire survey

Press Release
  1. Sophie LM Strickland
  1. King George Hospital, Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals, Essex, UK
  1. Correspondence to Sophie Strickland sophiestrickland{at}doctors.net.uk
  • Received 26 January 2011
  • Revised 2 May 2011
  • Accepted 24 May 2011
  • Published Online First 18 July 2011

Abstract

Objective To explore attitudes towards conscientious objections among medical students in the UK.

Methods Medical students at St George's University of London, Cardiff University, King's College London and Leeds University were emailed a link to an anonymous online questionnaire, hosted by an online survey company. The questionnaire contained nine questions. A total of 733 medical students responded.

Results Nearly half of the students in this survey stated that they believed in the right of doctors to conscientiously object to any procedure. Demand for the right to conscientiously object is greater in Muslim medical students when compared with other groups of religious medical students.

Discussion Abortion continues to be a contentious issue among medical students and this may contribute to the looming crisis in abortion services over the coming years. This project sheds some light on how future doctors view some of their ethical rights and obligations. Using empirical evidence, it reveals that conscientious objection is an issue in the UK medical student body today. These data could help anticipate problems that may arise when these medical students qualify and practise medicine in the community.

Conclusion Clearer guidance is needed for medical students about the issue of conscientious objection at medical school.

Footnotes

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Wandsworth Research Ethics Committee, London.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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