Calls to ban doctors from conscientiously objecting have been met with fierce criticism from a Canadian columnist.
Marni Soupcoff, a deputy editor for Canadian newspaper the National Post, was responding to a paper by bioethicists from Canada and the UK that said medical professionals should not be allowed to object to medical procedures on grounds of conscience.
If ever applied in Britain, it would mean Christian doctors would be forced to take part in abortions.
The paper’s publication follows the passing of a controversial law to allow assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada for people deemed to be terminally ill.
The bioethicists, Udo Schüklenk and Julian Savulescu of Queen’s University Canada and Oxford University respectively, also suggested applicants to medical school should be screened and eliminated if they cannot put aside their moral values.
Soupcoff slammed the paper, saying that for evangelical Christians, Roman Catholics and people of other religions, the prospect of medical school would be “completely off the table”.
She said it was giving the message: “Those with the wrong opinions – those whose moral compasses point in directions not deemed acceptable – need not apply.”
Soupcoff also highlighted the need for discourse on moral issues, saying: “The fact that a medical procedure or practice is legal does not, and should not, make it immune from legitimate, respectful and respectable personal questioning or opposition, including by physicians.”
Larry Worthen of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada also criticised the paper, saying: “In every jurisdiction in the world, conscientious objection is recognised in some form”.
“Are we going to get to the point where there’s an ethics test at the beginning of medical school, and if you have too much in the way of ethics, you’re going to be screened out?”, he asked.
He also added that the only governments that ban conscience rights are totalitarian regimes.
In the UK, a Bill to legalise assisted suicide was defeated in the House of Commons last year by 330 votes to 118.