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Contemporary Challenges to Conscience

Legal and Ethical Frameworks for Professional Conduct

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Edited By Aleksander Stępkowski

This book is a collection of studies addressing the complex and sensitive issue of conscientious objection. It has become utmost controversial, especially in relation to professional conduct in healthcare service. Moral dilemmas of physicians, being always a part of human existence, due to the development of public health insurance, became also a political issue with legal consequences. The book provides an in-depth analysis of this complex issue from a multidisciplinary perspective, including philosophical, political, legal and medical aspects. It also presents various experiences of different medical and legal professionals in this field.

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The Place of Conscience-Based Exemptions in the Struggle Against Injustice

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Abstract: The chapter presents a balanced assessment of the merits of seeking conscience-based exemptions to general legal obligations as a strategy for fighting injustice when one happens to find oneself in a community that dissents from the conventions and practices of the majority or ruling party. Dissenting communities, in cases where they face intransigent majorities or powerful and stubborn ruling elites, may find themselves compelled to seek out responses to injustice that fall short of full-scale social reform. Among these second-best responses are measures that reduce the costs of dissent from injustice. In this category, it is preferable to secure the liberty of all from any obligation to act unjustly than to seek special conscience-based exemptions from a requirement to engage in unjust conduct, since the former is less burdensome on dissenters and more consistent with the rule of law than the latter. Some of these second-best responses to injustice may tempt dissenters to put their own security or immunity from prosecution ahead of the imperative to bring an end to grave injustices in their society, and may encourage the wider society to view dissenters as harmless sects to be tolerated rather than serious interlocutors who deserve to be listened to. In conclusion, more direct and confrontational style of engagement, even in a politically unfavorable climate, may be more effective than the pursuit of conscience-based exemptions at making an injustice socially conspicuous.

Keywords: community, conscience, injustice, personal freedom

1 Introduction

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