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Conscientious Objection in Health Care
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Historically associated with military service, conscientious objection has become a significant phenomenon in health care. Mark Wicclair offers a comprehensive ethical analysis of conscientious objection in three representative health care professions: medicine, nursing and pharmacy. He critically examines two extreme positions: the 'incompatibility thesis', that it is contrary to the professional obligations of practitioners to refuse provision of any service within the scope of their professional competence; and 'conscience absolutism', that they should be exempted from performing any action contrary to their conscience. He argues for a compromise approach that accommodates conscience-based refusals within the limits of specified ethical constraints. He also explores conscientious objection by students in each of the three professions, discusses conscience protection legislation and conscience-based refusals by pharmacies and hospitals, and analyzes several cases. His book is a valuable resource for scholars, professionals, trainees, students, and anyone interested in this increasingly important aspect of health care.


‘This is an excellent book full of rich insight and systematic discussion of key issues relating to conscientious objection. It will be the key reference for all future work on this topic. Mark Wicclair provides a convincing structure for thinking about conscientious objection and a sophisticated and deep analysis of this increasingly important aspect of health care. It is particularly noteworthy that he considers not just physicians, but also nurses, pharmacists, and students.'

Angus Dawson - University of Keele

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