Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Public reason and the limited right to conscientious objection: a response to Magelssen
  1. Jake Greenblum
  1. Philosophy, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jake Greenblum; jrgreenblum{at}


In a recent article for this journal, Morten Magelssen argues that the right to conscientious objection in healthcare is grounded in the moral integrity of healthcare professionals, a good for both professionals and society. In this paper, I argue that there is no right to conscientious objection in healthcare, at least as Magelssen conceives of it. Magelssen’s conception of the right to conscientious objection is too expansive in nature. Although I will assume that there is a right to conscientious objection, it does not extend to objections that are purely religious in nature.i Thus, this right is considerably more restricted than Magelssen thinks. In making my case, I draw on John Rawls’s later work in arguing for the claim that conscientious objection based on purely religious considerations fails to benefit society in the appropriate way.

  • conscientious objection
  • magelssen
  • rawls
  • public reason

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • i It is important to emphasize this assumption about the existence of the right to conscientious objection. Others have doubted that this right exists. See, for instance, Savulescu J. Conscientious objection in medicine. BMJ 2006;332:294-97. Further note that my conclusion and Savulescu’s conclusion are consistent. That is, it is consistent to assert that there is no right to conscientious objction and to assert that if there is a right to conscientious objection, it must be grounded in such and such considerations. However, I suspect that Savulescu is wrong, for he disregards the fact of reasonable pluralism.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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

Other content recommended for you