Conscientious Objection and Professionalism

Expert Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 97-100, 2009

4 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2009

See all articles by Bernard Dickens

Bernard Dickens

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Date Written: April 3, 2009


This editorial outlines the principle of protection of health service providers' personal conscience, and the limit necessary to protect the health and freedom of their patients' rights of access to lawful health services. The balance protecting both providers' rights of conscience and patients' rights of care is the providers' duty to refer their patients to other providers who are suitable, available and prepared to offer the services to which the initial providers object. Referral is an ethical and often a legal duty that does not constitute complicity in the services the providers to whom reference is made may undertake. A burden of professionalism is that some professionals may object to lawful services that professional peers are willing to deliver. Further, objection is protected to lawful participation in procedures, but there is no right to object to administration of providers who undertake procedures administrators would object to provide to their own patients. Institutions and professional associations may assist clinical providers by keeping lists of other providers prepared to deliver services to which clinical providers object.

Keywords: health care, health professionalism, conscientious objection, duty of referral, bioethics, health law

JEL Classification: I18, K10, K40

Suggested Citation

Dickens, Bernard, Conscientious Objection and Professionalism (April 3, 2009). Expert Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 97-100, 2009. Available at SSRN:

Bernard Dickens (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
416-978-4849 (Phone)
416-978-7899 (Fax)

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