A survey of medical students has found that almost half believe doctors should be allowed to refuse to perform any procedure to which they object on moral, cultural or religious grounds, such as prescribing contraception or treating someone who is drunk or high on drugs.
Abortion provoked the strongest feelings among the 733 medical students surveyed, according to the study in the Journal of Medical Ethics. “The survey revealed that almost a third of students would not perform an abortion for a congenitally malformed foetus after 24 weeks, a quarter would not perform an abortion for failed contraception before 24 weeks and a fifth would not perform an abortion on a minor who was the victim of rape,” said researcher Dr Sophie Strickland.
In the UK, abortion is allowed up to 24 weeks if two doctors agree that it is medically necessary. (This is, probably deliberately, open to interpretation: one interpretation is that an abortion is medically necessary if a woman wants it. A key part of the reason is that the risk of continuing the pregnancy is greater than the risk of aborting: early abortion is pretty risk-free, and childbirth is more risky.) But if we don’t have enough doctors willing and able to perform abortions, it won’t be properly available.
Also, although the article just skims over it– I’m really shocked to hear there are medical students who want be allowed to refuse to treat a patient who is intoxicated. This isn’t a matter of refusing to perform some particular procedure that the doctor believes to be wrong. That’s hugely problematic, but at least I understand the reasoning. This is a matter of refusing treatment *in general* to someone because they have engaged in legal behaviour.
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