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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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Conscientious Objection and the Goals of Medicine

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Abstract: In the chapter author distinguishes conscientious objection from conscience clause. He argues that the main cause of the problem of conscientious objection in medical practice is not the scope of the conscience clause, but the scope of duties imposed on medical workers. The problem should be analyzed from the perspective of teleology and axiology of medicine: can the duties imposed on medical personnel be objectively justified based on medicine’s purposes and values? Duties arising from internal goals and most of external goals are justifiable. However, several obligations arising from external goals conflict with medicine’s purposes and fundamental norms of medical ethics such as respect for life or non-maleficence principle. Attempts should be made to limit the scope of guaranteed health services to procedure that do not violate medicine’s essence, its internal goals and fundamental ethical principles.

Keywords: conscientious objection, freedom of conscience, goals of medicine, medical practice

1 Introduction

Conscience, reason and freedom are the most fundamental features signifying human nature’s uniqueness and, in particular, its dignity, which is the foundation of any system of positive law. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) underlines in Article 1 that all human beings are “endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”1 Freedom of conscience occupies a special place among the fundamental human rights and freedoms, and is a necessary condition for the development of every human person and a responsible democratic society...

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