Individualised claims of conscience, clinical judgement and best interests

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Smith, Stephen (2018)

Conscience and conscientious objections are important issues in medical law and ethics. However, discussions tend to focus on a particular type of conscience-based claim. These types of claims are based upon predictable, generalizable rules in which an individual practitioner objects to what is otherwise standard medical treatment (for example, the objections recognised in the Abortion Act). However, not all conscience based claims are of this type. There are other claims which are based not on an objection to a treatment in general but in individual cases. In other words, these cases may involve practices which the doctor does not usually object to but does so in this instance on these facts. This paper will explore these types of conscience-based claims in two ways. First, it will explore whether these types of individualised conscience-based claims are really conscience claims at all. Second, it will explore how these claims interact with the other sorts of judgements we expect doctors to make in these cases (things like professional standards, clinical judgment and the best interests of the patient).
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