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J Am Med Womens Assoc. 2003 Fall;58(4):223-6.

Moral diversity among physicians and conscientious refusal of care in the provision of abortion services.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Oregon Health and Science University, USA.


Physicians are independent moral agents whose values, like those of nonphysicians, are shaped by personal experience, religious beliefs, family, and lifetime mentors. Most individuals are free to exercise their moral values in the ways that they see fit within the boundaries of legality. Physicians' moral values take on special significance, however, when considering services patients may request but that contradict that physician's moral beliefs, such as termination of pregnancy. In this article I analyze the competing obligations to self and to patient that a conscientiously objecting physician must consider when his or her personal morality affects his or her relationship with the patient. Despite each physician's freedom to choose his or her mode of practice and which services to provide, a physician with a moral viewpoint that would prevent even counseling on certain options should consider practicing in an area of medicine in which the patient's right to full disclosure of options and informed consent is not compromised by the physician's personal moral stance.

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