The debate over conscientious objection is continuing, with the editors of two major bioethics journals calling for strict limits on “objection at the bedside”.
In a paper released in Bioethics this week, Julian Savulescu, the editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, and Udo Schuklenk, the co-editor of Bioethics, argue that doctors have “no right to refuse access to assistance in dying, contraception or abortion”.
Savulescu and Schuklenk believe that disagreements about the provision of healthcare should be carried out in policy forums, and not in a clinical context.
“Individual values ought not to govern delivery of health care at the bedside. Doctors can campaign for policy or legal reform. They can also provide advice with reasons, based on their values. But they have no claim to special moral status that would permit them to deny patients medical care that these patients are entitled to.”Savulescu and Schuklenk respond at length to a paper published by Christopher Cowley of University College Dublin defending conscientious objection in healthcare.
The authors extol the virtues of restrictions on conscientious objection in Scandinavian countries. A test case of new conscientious objection laws in Norway is currently underway, involving a Polish GP working in the country who refused to provide abortifacients to patients.
One of the recurring themes thrown up by assisted reproduction is the importance of genetic ties. Are we determined by our origins, or can we forge our own identity? Does it matter whether our nearest and dearest are our kith and kin or whether they are just the people we hang around with?
By chance I just stumbled across the astonishing story of a Hungarian politician whose life was transformed when he discovered his true genetic identity.
By the time Csanad Szegedi was 24, he was vice-president of Jobbik, a far-right, nationalist and virulently anti-Semitic party. He was elected to the European Parliament as a Jobbik MEP in 2009 and wrote a book, I Believe in Hungary’s Resurrection.
Then he learned his family’s deepest secret: he was a Jew. His grandfather and grandmother were actually Auschwitz survivors.
Szegedi’s life fell apart. He was forced to resign from Jobbik.
Suddenly he did a complete about-face. Under the tuition of a Lubavitch rabbi from New York who was living in Budapest he became an Orthodox, observant Jew; he had himself circumcised, adopted the name Dovid and burned a thousand copies of his book. Now he ismigrating to Israel with his wife and two children. He is interesting in joining the Knesset.
Szegedi is obviously a complex, intense man. He could even be a charlatan. But his astonishing journey does suggest that there is something to the idea that our personal identity is incomplete if it lacks the genetic heritage.
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