The recent pressures exerted on the health community, seeking to limit the free exercise of their profession when they oppose putting into practice laws that threaten the life or health of people, compels us to raise the dilemma of the exercise of conscientious objection, or rather, the imperative of the exercise of good professional practice.
Conscientious objection when requested
When a doctor is pushed to kill rather than cure, he is not only betraying his Hippocratic Oath, if he did so, but he is dedicating his knowledge and skills to doing the exact opposite of what he was trained to do: to heal, to alleviate, to prevent … to promote life.
When a pharmacist must dispense a drug used to carry out euthanasia (so-called “medically assisted dying” – MAD), or an abortion (so-called interruption of pregnancy), or hormonal blockade in an adolescent who wants to change gender, it goes against that for which he trained for a good part of his life.
The schizophrenic scenario in Spain
In other words, we are witnessing a schizophrenic scenario in which those who know nothing about health and disease force those who do know something to do the contrary of what they should: to harm instead of heal, to kill instead of saving or to make ill instead of protecting health. Read our article Journal of Medical Ethics article defends conscientious objection on the same grounds on which has been heavily criticized: abortion provision.
Should a healthcare professional invoke the right to conscientious objection when requested to do the opposite of what he or she should and knows to do? Or, rather, should they call on their obligation to exercise good practice and apply the best, most effective and safest treatments to support the health of their patients?
Moreover, we find the inexplicable paradox that, while in an ICU ward, sophisticated means and complex medical resources are used to try to save the life of a patient who has just attempted suicide by ingesting an overdose of sleeping tablets, while in the adjoining room, dutiful doctors, pharmacists, nurses and orderlies are preparing to apply a euthanasia cocktail — because it is legal — to end the life of a patient who has decided not to continue living, like the suicide next door.
Or that of a pharmacist who attends their pregnant patient and studies the complex possibilities that a certain treatment that has been prescribed could be harmful to the fetus and should be contraindicated, warning her and her prescribing doctor of the need to seek a safe alternative for her pregnancy, while she is then asked — again because it is legal — to supply an abortifacient drug that most certainly does produce such harmful effects on the embryo that it ends its life.
Spanish list should be filled with health care professionals that request conscientious objection to euthanasia
Is it necessary to register on a list of healthcare providers who exercise good practice in their profession and apply their knowledge to preserve the health and life of their patients? This is what the Spanish government wants us to do when the list should be filled with those who do not practice medicine but act as executioners, with those who do not make medicines, but poison. All of them, those who commit malpractice, should be identified, for the sake of their patients. For the rest of us, let us exercise with excellence what we have trained for: to be at the service of life.
Julio Tudela Pharm PhD
Bioethics Observatory – Institute of Life Sciences
Catholic University of Valencia