Christian Hospitals Should Not be Forced to Kill People in Abortion and Euthanasia

Institutional conscientious objection may seem like an arcane bioethical issue, but it will be at the center of intense political debates for years to come. As more and more jurisdictions legalize procedures like abortion and euthanasia, some hospitals and clinics, mostly Catholic, will refuse to provide the facilities. Governments will try to force them to participate – and there will be fireworks. This is already happening on a small scale in Canada and Australia.

The idea that an institution can have a conscience is strongly rejected by many bioethicists. The ability to discriminate between right and wrong belongs to individuals, not institutions, they believe. Therefore, hospitals that refuse to provide, for example, abortions should be forced to do so and doctors who refuse to participate should be fired. After all, abortion is legal and socially acceptable.

Until now, the arguments for and against institutional conscientious objection have been relatively unsophisticated. One side says, “do what I say or else”; the other side responded, “we have a time-honored right to our beliefs”. They are vulnerable to the exercise of raw political power.

However, bioethicists are beginning to examine this issue more carefully. Naa Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, two Australians, Xavier Symons and Reginald Chua, defend an institutional right to honest dissent by parsing the terms of the debate more carefully. (Full disclosure: Symons is a former deputy editor of BioEdge, who currently works at Harvard.) They sketch three familiar arguments against institutional conscientious objection:

  • People have a conscience; institutions have no conscience.
  • Institutions receiving public funding must provide services permitted by law.
  • Institutions should not deny legal services to people who are in dire need, especially when they have nowhere else to go.

LifeNews is on TruthSocial. Please follow us here.

Symons and Chua argue that these objections fail to account for the metaphysics of institutions. Although institutions are not individual persons, we often talk about them as if they bear moral responsibility. For example, Israel should not bomb Gaza o Iran should not fund Hamas. This isn’t a knock-out blow to ICO opponents, but it should give us pause. This is an approach supported by recent philosophical research.

Their critique of the government funding argument posits another simple distinction:

Catholic facilities are not funded by governments with the explicit hope of providing abortion or euthanasia. They are funded with the expectation that they will act according to their basis. If anything, Catholic hospitals respect the State’s expectations of them by acting in accordance with their core values ​​and not providing terminations and assisted dying.

Forcing these institutions to provide “immoral” services causes them moral harm.

Finally, they understand in the argument about the denial of essential services a strong tinge of consequentialism: “that women’s lives and health are more important than respecting the mission and values ​​of an institution”. But this is a matter of reasonable, if rigorous, disagreement.

They note that the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2012 that “States are obliged to organize their health service system . . . to ensure the effective use of freedom of conscience by health professionals. . . not prevent patients from gaining access to services to which they are entitled.”

Without demolishing the arguments against institutional conscientious objection, they argue that more depth, nuance, and tolerance are needed in a conflict that is sure to grow more heated in the coming years.

LifeNews Note: Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge where this story appears.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button