In the Catholic Peace Weekly Diagnosis of Current Events Column, an Ethicist gives her thoughts on respect for Conscience in the medical world.
She recently read an article that the World Medical Association is revising the International Code of Ethics to limit the scope of what can be medically rejected in conscience. Doctors who refuse to participate in acts of abortion and euthanasia are obliged to give these cases to doctors who do not have problems with the issue. Doctors can refuse to perform procedures if they violate their conscience, but they are pushing for a code of ethics to cooperate in misdeeds by making it mandatory to request (medical treatment) from other doctors. One professor fears that "requesting conscientious objectors to proceed with procedures they oppose is a direct attack on individual conscience and moral integrity.
A conscientious objection in the medical field is a refusal to perform procedures or cooperate in cases that violate the conscience of medical professionals. Abortion has been legalized in many countries over the past few decades, and recently euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide have caused ethical conflicts for many medical professionals. "The doctor's conscience has little place in providing modern medical services," is the thinking of many— "If a doctor is not ready to give a patient what is legal, medically valid, and beneficial because it conflicts with his or her values they should not be doctors."
Although it did not go to this extreme, what the world's society is currently pursuing is obviously a very seriously problematic clause that threatens the consciences of medical professionals.
During World War II, the Nuremberg trial (1946–1947), judged crimes committed by Nazi doctors against prisoners of war. The whole world was shocked when it was revealed that Nazi doctors performed medicine to kill, not to treat while serving political power. Therefore, various codes and declarations were written in reflection on doctors' duties to prevent similar incidents from happening again. So the right to conscientious objection is based on obligations that are fundamental to medical ethics. For example, a doctor's oath adopted by the General Assembly of the World Medical Association in Geneva in 1948 declares, "I will carry out my profession with conscience and dignity." Paragraph 2 of the Korean Medical Association's "Doctor Ethics Code" states that "Doctors provide medical treatment based on medically recognized knowledge and skills, and maintain dignity and honor."
Conscientious objection is also a right to be protected by legal grounds in recognition of freedom of conscience. Articles 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights and 18 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights specify that freedom of conscience should be respected. Article 19 of the Constitution of Korea also clearly states, "Every citizen has freedom of conscience."
Denying or severely restricting the right to conscientious objection leads to ethical poverty in the medical community and spreads the idea that ethics is not important. For this reason, the conscience and moral integrity of individuals are bound to be further diminished. Conscientious rejection of abortion, euthanasia, human embryo research, and other behaviors that claim human life is based on the basic principles of both medicine and law. Currently, the global society's push to revise the medical ethics code violates these principles, and it is a very worrisome situation considering the impact it will have in the future.