Saturday, September 3, 2011

When medical laws say 'yes', but your conscience says 'no'

Can laws force medical staff to act against their religion or conscience? It's a daily struggle in some countries, but Irish Senator Ronan Mullen is one of several leading the fight against this.

Ronan Mullen
Senator of Ireland
“If you're a medical professional and you know that providing an abortion or being involved in some way in an abortion is not truthful behavior, it's not part of true medical care, then your right to opt of that needs to be respected.”

But often, it's not that easy. At times opting out could mean being fired, or simply not getting hired in the first place. This was discussed during the 8th Matercare International meeting in Rome, with medical staff from all over the world.

Ronan Mullen
Senator of Ireland
“The challenge in a pluralist society is to accommodate people's freedom on conscience while at the same time acknowledging that what is lawful is going to go on in that society.”

This ongoing conflict can be seen in the McCafferty report. It was drafted last year by a British politician and abortion activist, Christine McCafferty. She argued the European Union should “regulate” those who oppose abortions. After several amendments by Mullen and his supporters, the proposal completely changed to the point where its original author voted against it.

Now it reads “No person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion...human miscarriage or euthanasia.”

But other countries still face that very challenge and sometimes it goes beyond a hospital. In Ireland for example secularism is a major problem. There's a proposal that could force priests to break the seal of Confession to report cases of sex abuse. Closing religious schools is also being considered.

Ronan Mullen
Senator of Ireland
“Let's not try to undermine the valuable contribution of religious denominations in education simply because there is justified anger about the scandals that have taken part in the past, but which are now being addressed with new practices and procedures being put in place.”

Progress has been made, but Mullen says the fight is far from over.

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