by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.
A September article in Bioethics by Julian Savulescu and Udo Schuklenk has lit a fire under the Christian media. According to such news sources as The Stream (a conservative Christian website) and author William Briggs (you have to read his bio) “Bioethicists Want to Purge Christian Doctors.” This reaction to the Bioethics article is further evidence that we see what we want in writing rather than what is actually written.
In their article, “Doctors Have No Right to Refuse Medical Assistance in Dying, Abortion or Contraception,” Savulescu and Schuklenk offer a refutation of an article by Christopher Cowley’s, “A Defence of Conscientious Objection in Medicine: A Reply to Schuklenk and Savulescu.” Yes, the article that has offended the Christian press is a reply to a reply to a 2015 editorial written by Schuklenk and a 2006 analysis by Savulescu.
First, it’s important to note that editorials and analyses are not facts but are statements of the opinions and findings of the author. Second, the earliest lesson of ethics and humanities is to always go to the source. Savulescu’s 2006 BMJ Kantian analysis argues that if there is a true duty of a physician than a doctor must do it because if the action was morally wrong, then it would not be a duty. Thus, he concludes that conscious objection should not be part of medicine. If a person is not willing to “offer legally permitted, efficient, and beneficial care to a patient because it conflicts with their values, they should not be doctors.” Basically, Savulescu argues that professional duties outweigh personal values and if a person cannot perform such duties, then he or she should not be in medicine.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.