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Conscientious objectors to the killing of others—whether through war, abortion, infanticide or euthanasia usually pay quite a high price for taking such a stand, if only in having to bear the opprobrium of opposing voices; some, however, lose their jobs altogether or at least the likelihood of promotion even if they remain in post.1 Leading medical journals,2 ,3 including this one,4 have at least up to now appeared increasingly intolerant in recent years of conscientious objection in medicine.
The recently published consensus statement of an ethics summit on the topic begins, ‘Healthcare practitioners’ primary obligations are towards their patients, not towards their own personal conscience.’5 This arguably creates a false antithesis from the start. Conscientious objection to killing is primarily about obligations to patients in the minds of most such objectors. The consensus statement goes …
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.