It is a basic tenet of the Hippocratic oath taken by most doctors to “First do no harm.” For millennia doctors have followed this advice, thinking first of the welfare of their patients.
But now doctors are being forced to perform procedures and prescribe medicines that will lead to death – of the unborn and those who prefer to die. Although laws today generally protect doctors from such coercion, there is a growing movement to change all that.
Wesley J. Smith, writing in The Weekly Standard, calls this “medical martyrdom.” He says a “Consensus Statement on Conscientious Objection in Healthcare,” published recently by the University of Oxford’s Practical Ethics, is a case in point. In the statement, prominent bioethicists claim that existing legal protections shielding medical doctors from forced participation in abortion and assisted suicide are “indefensible.”
Smith says they urge the laws be amended to require all doctors either to perform legal medical procedures or, if conscientiously opposed, be compelled to refer to a doctor the dissenter knows is willing. In circumstances where such a doctor cannot be found or reasonably reached by the patient, the statement declares that objecting doctors should be forced to “perform the treatment themselves.”
Furthermore, the statement goes on to advocate establishing “tribunals” before which objecting doctors would be forced to appear to demonstrate the sincerity and depth of their objections. If excused from actually performing the objectionable procedures, the doctor would be required to perform community service, as if he had been convicted of a crime. And they must be re-educated! “Healthcare practitioners should also be educated to reflect on the influence of cognitive bias in their objections.”
Medical students, unless they are willing to be trained in killing techniques, should find a different profession. The statement says, “Medical students should not be exempted from learning how to perform basic medical procedures they consider to be morally wrong.”
Smith goes on to say that The Consensus Statement is not an outlier in the bioethics debate. An article recently published in the Journal of Medical Ethics also laments the existence of legal protections for medical conscience and urges that dissenting doctors be treated like military draft resisters, with tribunals set up to determine whether they should be exempted from medical procedures that kill.
Two leading international ethicists, Julian Savulescu and Udo Schuklenk have taken up this cause and written in the journal Bioethics a claim that “Doctors Have No Right to Refuse Medical Assistance in Dying, Abortion, or Contraception.” They argue that “the scope of professional practice is ultimately determined by society” and that the doctor’s own views on right and wrong do not matter:
“If a service a doctor is requested to perform is a medical practice, is legal, consistent with distributive justice, requested by the patient or their appointed surrogate, and is plausibly in their interests, the doctor must ensure the patient has access to it. It is then irrelevant how defensible the doctor’s own moral take on the patient’s actions is.”
This is not just an academic argument being played out in the liberal world of bioethicists. Medical martyrdom already exists in Victoria, Australia. Doctors are legally required to perform abortions when asked or, if opposed, to find a willing replacement. One doctor has already been professionally disciplined for refusing to refer for a sex-selection abortion.
Closer to home, the Canadian Supreme Court has determined there is a right to euthanasia for patients with a diagnosed medical condition that causes “irremediable suffering” – as defined by the patient. Province medical associations have enacted participate-or-refer policies as advocated in the articles above.
And in Vermont, home state of socialist icon Bernie Sanders, where assisted suicide is legal, state bureaucrats have interpreted a law requiring that doctors counsel dying patients in all palliative care options as a legal obligation to provide information about assisted suicide. Alliance Defending Freedom is currently in litigation to overturn this interpretation.
The ultimate goal seems to be to force pro-life, orthodox Christians and other dissenters to leave the profession. Undoubtedly such tactics will be used to force all members of society to comply with their ultra liberal orthodoxy. If your profession isn’t affected yet, it soon will be.
“When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist.
When they locked up the socialists, I remained silent; I was not a socialist.
When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn’t a Jew.
When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.”
– Pastor Martin Niemoller after he was imprisoned by the Nazis from 1937 to 1945