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  1. Bennett Foddy, Associate Editor

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Conscientious objection

Do doctors have the right to refuse to perform certain procedures on their patients on moral or religious grounds, or does their duty to their patients override their personal moral objections? Several papers in this issue explore this perennial ethical dilemma.

Paediatrician Giles Birchley (see page 13) seeks to defend the role of the doctor's conscience in all medical decision-making, not only the cases where treatment is declined by the clinician. He observes that the role of conscience has been systematically reduced in medical practice, with a small number of controversial exceptions involving late-term abortions and stem-cell research. Birchley argues that this trend ought to be reversed, so that the clinician's conscience can serve as a kind of interface between everyday moral values and the peculiar, special-case moral frameworks that are employed in the practice of healthcare. He also suggests that allowing the physician to express her conscience might improve morale and reduce burn-out, among …

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