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The BMA's guidance on conscientious objection may be contrary to human rights law
  1. John Olusegun Adenitire
  1. Correspondence to John Olusegun Adenitire, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge. Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge CB3 0DG, UK; joa22{at}


It is argued that the current policy of the British Medical Association (BMA) on conscientious objection is not aligned with recent human rights developments. These grant a right to conscientious objection to doctors in many more circumstances than the very few recognised by the BMA. However, this wide-ranging right may be overridden if the refusal to accommodate the conscientious objection is proportionate. It is shown that it is very likely that it is lawful to refuse to accommodate conscientious objections that would result in discrimination of protected groups. It is still uncertain, however, in what particular circumstances the objection may be lawfully refused, if it poses risks to the health and safety of patients. The BMA's policy has not caught up with these human rights developments and ought to be changed.

  • Conscientious Objection
  • Rights
  • Codes of/Position Statements on Professional Ethics
  • Public Law
  • Abortion

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