Conscientious objection and abortion


Sir, –Wendy Chavkin (“A doctor must act like one – even around conscience and abortion”, Opinion & Analayis, October 23rd) says that it is a doctor’s duty to ensure that a patient gets care and she adds that a doctor should put the patient’s needs above his own. That is true, but it is also true that no doctor should be forced to act against his or her professional instincts.

When a patient requests any procedure, there are two reasons why a GP might be reluctant to become involved. The more common reason is that the GP doesn’t think, in his or her professional judgment, that the procedure is what is clinically best for the patient. The second, exceptionally rare reason is conscientious objection. In both instances, if patients are unhappy with the refusal, they can self-refer without difficulty to another GP down the road, without the first GP’s approval, consent, knowledge or involvement.

It overstates the power of GPs to suggest that a single GP can place such an insurmountable obstruction to any particular treatment that he or she cannot be bypassed and so must be forced by law to become involved against their will. – Yours, etc,



Co Wexford.

Sir, – Prof Wendy Chavkin argues that doctors have a “specific professional duty to put patients’ need first, above their own”.

A conscientious objector would reply that there are two patients in a pregnancy, ie the mother and her child.

The doctor has a duty to care for both and, unless it is medically necessary to save the life of the mother, abortion is not healthcare precisely because it ends the life of one of the patients.

Prof Chavkin makes reference to the guidelines of the Irish Medical Council but these will soon become outdated as they were not written in the context of the liberal abortion regime that Minister for Health Simon Harris is proposing. A new scenario requires new and more rigorous safeguards for medical professionals who want to provide care for all their patients, including the unborn ones.

Any discussion about the regulation of conscientious objection must start from acknowledging that doctors do not object for some personal irrational belief but because they see abortion in contradiction with their professional duty to care. – Yours, etc,


Research Officer,

The Iona Institute,

Dublin 2.