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Conscientious objection in sexual and reproductive health – a guideline that respects diverse views but emphasises patients’ rights
  1. Asha Kasliwal,
  2. Jane Hatfield
  1. Faculty of Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Jane Hatfield, Faculty of Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), 27 Sussex Place, Regent’s Park, London NW1 4RG, UK; ChiefExec{at}fsrh.org

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The Faculty of Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) is the principal professional body for doctors and nurses working in sexual and reproductive health (SRH) care in the UK. Its members include doctors, both general practitioners and specialists, and nurses working in primary care and specialist services.

Conscientious objection to aspects of professional practice is an issue that is particularly relevant to SRH practitioners, given their involvement with controversial aspects of healthcare such as contraception and abortion. In fact the dilemmas these issues can raise are relevant to all healthcare professionals wherever they are practising and under whatever legal framework. This article explains the process by which the FSRH recently reviewed its guidelines on conscientious objection, and presents the essential and universal ethical issues this process raised, as listed in the box.

Box

Ethical issues raised during review of Faculty of Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) guideline on conscientious objection

  • How can the rights of the healthcare professional be balanced with the rights of the patient?

  • Should healthcare professionals have to be ‘open’ about their religious or ethical views to their employers, their patients, or their training bodies?

  • What happens if their views change?

  • Should professionals with conscientious objections be made aware of any consequences for the patient that may result from their stance?

  • If professionals choose the specialty …

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