Medical Students Support Right to Conscientious Objection

Nearly half of medical students believe in right to conscientiously object to any procedure

THURSDAY, July 21 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly half of medical students in the United Kingdom, especially Muslims, believe in the right of doctors to conscientiously object to or refuse any procedure, according to a study published online July 18 in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Sophie L.M. Strickland, from the King George Hospital in Barking, U.K., investigated attitudes toward conscientious objections among 733 medical students from four universities in the United Kingdom. A link to an anonymous online questionnaire, hosted by an online survey company and including nine questions, was sent to the participating medical students. The questionnaire included questions on type of medical degree, gender, religion, ethnic origin, and topical areas of health care predicted to conflict with their religious, moral, or personal beliefs.

The investigators found that nearly half of the medical students believed in the right of the doctors to conscientiously refuse or object to any procedure. A greater demand for the right to conscientiously object to medical treatment was seen in Muslim medical students than other religious groups. Abortion was the most conscientiously refused treatment among students.

"This project sheds some light on how future doctors view some of their ethical rights and obligations. Using empirical evidence, it reveals that conscientious objection is an issue in the U.K. medical student body today," the authors write.

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