Press Release: Leading Ethicists & Physicians Write Open Letter to World Medical Association In Defence of Freedom of Conscience

An open letter signed by over 100 professors, directors of research centres, physicians, and others concerned with medical ethics, has been sent to the World Medical Association (WMA), urging them not to impose an obligation on physicians to refer their patients for procedures which they could not facilitate in good conscience.

On 11-12 August the World Medical Association, in conjunction with the American Medical Association, is hosting a meeting of experts in Washington DC to discuss the International Code of Medical Ethics. Among other revisions to the Code, it is being proposed that it include a paragraph on conscientious objection. The meeting will consider whether this should require any doctor who objects to make effective and timely referral to a doctor who does not object.

The Open Letter, signed by over 100 professors, directors of research centres, physicians and others concerned with medical ethics, urges the WMA not to impose an obligation on physicians to refer patients for procedures that the physician sincerely and reasonably considers unethical.

Prof. David Albert Jones, Director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, said:

I was urged to draft this open letter by colleagues who were worried that doctors might be coerced into referring patients for procedures which they sincerely and reasonably considered unethical. I am honoured that so many illustrious academics and practitioners from ethics, law and medicine have added their public support to this statement. I hope very much that the WMA will reject any attempt to undermine the commitment of doctors to practise medicine in good conscience and to refrain from actions that they believe would harm their patients”.

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