Action Steps and Solutions for Physicians’ Exercise of Conscience
Eliza Blanchard and Lynn Stoller
Conscience can influence physicians’ interactions with patients in myriad ways and, by extension, can influence the interactions and internal dynamics of a health care team. The AMA’s opinion around physicians’ exercise of conscience appropriately balance the obligations physicians have to their patients and profession, and the rights of physicians as moral agents to exercise their conscience. While the opinion is an effective starting point, further guidance is necessary to clarify the process by which physicians should identify, manage, and, if necessary, report their conscientious refusals to patients, supervisors, or colleagues. In addition to laying out a proposed process for identifying and managing issues of conscience, this article will use relevant and timely examples to help clarify how a physician could apply this process in an instance of conscientious refusal.
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