Medicine and conscientious objection

A chara, – Aidan Pender and David McConnell, chairman and honorary president respectively of the Humanist Association of Ireland, write about medical ethics in Irish hospitals (Letter, May 14th). Their view is that "It should be illegal for hospitals such as St Vincent's, the Mater, Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children . . . not to consider or provide treatments on the grounds that they are forbidden by the Catholic Church."

It seems that they consider it unacceptable that hospitals founded by Catholic organisations in times when the State did not or could not provide such services should “require staff to adhere to Catholic medical ethics”, while they demand that such hospitals be required to adhere to medical ethics “most appropriate in leading non-Catholic hospitals in Ireland and worldwide” .

In effect, then, they are doing precisely what they say it should be illegal for Catholic hospitals to do. They use the word “control” three times of the management of Catholic hospitals as if it were an abuse of power, while they themselves demand the control of all hospitals on their own terms. They say, “Even hospitals outside the formal control of Catholic organisations have found it difficult to avoid objections of Catholic staff to the provision of medical care not approved by the church.”

So they express their own conscientious objection while querying the right of others to do so. Hospitals vary in their areas of specialisation. We do not demand that every hospital be a trauma centre or provide every legal treatment.


Catholic hospitals specialise, for example, in safeguarding as far as possible every human life from conception to natural death. At times it can be necessary to carry out a procedure to safeguard the health and life of a pregnant woman which, sadly, may result in the loss of life of the unborn child. They do not carry out “a medical procedure which is intended to end the life of a foetus” according to the Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2018. Their right to provide service in accordance with their ethos, in any democratic society, must be respected. – Is mise,



Dublin 16.