New Publication by Dana Howard: "Civil Disobedience, Not Merely Conscientious Objection, In Medicine"
CEHV's Dana Howard (CARE Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor in the Division of Bioethics, Department of Biomedical Education and Anatomy) has published her article "Civil Disobedience, Not Merely Conscientious Objection, In Medicine" in HealthCare Ethics Committee (HEC) Forum.
Those arguing that conscientious objection in medicine should be declared unethical by professional societies face the following challenge: conscientious objection can function as an important reforming mechanism when it involves health care workers refusing to participate in certain medical interventions deemed standard of care and legally sanctioned but which undermine patients’ rights. In such cases, the argument goes, far from being unethical, conscientious objection may actually be a professional duty. I examine this sort of challenge and ultimately argue that these acts of conscience done in the interest of reforming professional norms or medical regulations are best understood as episodes of civil disobedience rather than episodes of conscientious objection. In contrast to the private, exempting nature of conscientious objection, civil disobedience is a public breach of a norm or law undertaken with the aim of bringing about a change in governmental policies or professional standards. Consequently, clinicians may have a duty to engage in civil disobedience even while professional societies are right to declare limitations on the ethical appropriateness of conscientious objection.