BY Amanda Connelly | February 2 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

4-MIDWIVE

Church calls for Scottish Bill to back medics’ conscience rights

The Catholic Church in Scotland has called for a bill that gives medical professionals the right to conscientiously object to medical procedures such as abortion.

The comments come after Baroness O’Loan’s new Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill for England and Wales, which looks to ensure conscience rights for medical professionals, had a second hearing in the House of Lords on Friday January 26.

“While the bill only applies to England and Wales, its progress should be of interest to people in Scotland, where hopefully a similar bill could be presented to the Scottish Parliament,” director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office Anthony Horan said. “Conscientious objection is a widely respected concept with considerable international and national laws, guidance, and conventions protecting the right. A Scottish bill would bring Scotland into line with international norms.”

The bill protects medical professionals’ right to conscientiously object, safeguarding them from discrimination, allowing them to take part fully in their chosen career and care for patients to the best of their ability.

Mr Horan pointed to the case of Glasgow midwives Mary Doogan and Connie Wood, who lost their fight to object to taking part in involvement with abortion processes.

“This bill could restore the fuller right of conscientious objection that was lost when the UK Supreme Court ruled that Glasgow midwives Mary Doogan and Connie Wood did not have a legal right to object to involvement in the abortion process,” he said.

“It is quite astonishing that anybody would deny another this basic right of conscience, a denial which flies in the face of Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights which protects the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

He also noted that medical professionals are not protected under current laws.

“Under the existing law, some medical professionals are not protected from unjust discrimination,” he added. “GPs, as well as many nurses, midwives, pharmacists, and other medical professionals have limited statutory conscience protection.

“As a result, some areas of the healthcare profession are becoming increasingly inhospitable for those with certain deeply-held moral, philosophical or religious views.”

Mary Doogan, one of the midwives involved in the Greater Glasgow Health Board case, has praised the new bill.

“I am very glad to see that there is finally parliamentary action taking place to restore the conscience rights of those who work tirelessly day in and day out to serve and care for others,” she said. “As medical professionals, we owe patients not only our efforts but also our best moral judgement, and this bill would allow us once again to practise with the greatest integrity. I fully support this important legislation and commend it to parliament and the wider public.”

A leading conscience expert and senior lecturer at Strathclyde University, Dr Mary Neal, also welcomed the bill and spoke of the ‘pressing need’ for more rights ­urrounding statutory conscience.

“There is a pressing need for statutory conscience rights which actually protect those who need protection,” she said. “The current law fails to do this, so this bill is a necessary and timely step. I am heartened to see our legislators turning their attention to this issue, and I welcome this bill as a ­necessary and timely step.”

– amanda@sconews.co.uk

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