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Conscientious objection and healthcare in the UK: why tribunals are not the answer
  1. Christopher Cowley
  1. Correspondence to Dr Christopher Cowley, School of Philosophy, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland; Christopher.cowley{at}


A recent issue of the journal Bioethics discussed whether conscientious objectors within the healthcare context should be required to give their reasons to a specially convened tribunal, who would have the power to reject the objection. This is modeled on the context of military conscription. Advocates for such a tribunal offer two different justifications, one based on determining the genuineness of the applicant's beliefs, the other based on determining their reasonableness. I limit my discussion to a doctor's objection to abortion in the UK, and argue against both justifications: I thereby defend the status quo, where such doctors are not formally required to defend their beliefs. My argument has to do with the particular nature of the abortion debate in the UK, and the more general nature of ethical disagreement.

  • Abortion
  • Conscientious Objection
  • Ethics Committees/Consultation

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