Internal WiP: Xavier Symons

Three arguments against institutional conscientious objection, and why they are unconvincing

Abstract: The past decade has seen a burgeoning of scholarly interest in conscientious objection in healthcare. While the literature to date has focused primarily on individual healthcare practitioners who object to participation in morally controversial procedures, in this paper I  consider a different albeit related issue, namely, whether public healthcare institutions should be required to provide morally controversial services such as abortions, emergency contraception, voluntary sterilizations, and voluntary euthanasia.  

Specifically, I critique three common arguments against healthcare providers that object the provision of morally controversial procedures. These arguments centre on questions about the ontological status of institutions and their capacity for moral agency, and questions about the obligations of publicly funded institutions to provide procedures that are legal and sanctioned by medical associations.  Yet I argue that these objections are unconvincing. Current critics of ICO fail to demonstrate why institutions have an obligation to provide healthcare services that are in opposition to their mission and values. Institutions may not have a conscience, yet it does not follow that they are undeserving of something relevantly similar to conscience rights. And while some religiously-affiliated healthcare providers are publicly funded, this fact alone does not oblige them to provide socially contentious medical procedures. 

Speaker: Xavier Symons is a Research Associate in the Institute for Ethics and Society, University of Notre Dame Australia, and a convener of the Institute's Bioethics and Healthcare Ethics Research Program. Xavier recently submitted his PhD thesis, which focused on ethical issues in the allocation of scarce lifesaving healthcare resources. Xavier is also a student in Uehiro Centre's Master of Studies in Practical Ethics program. He has published widely on end of life ethics and conscientious objection, and his work has appeared in journals such as the Journal of Medical Ethics, Bioethics, Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics and the Medical Journal of Australia. He is also a regular contributor to the Australian media, and has published extensively with The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, ABC Religion and Ethics and The Conversation. 

Venue: Petrov Room, Suite 1 Littlegate House, 16-17 St Ebbe's Street, Oxford OX1 1PT

Booking: not required – internal only