Theology and Philosophy

Prof Jeanette Kennett - 12 August

The cost of conscience: Kant on Conscience and Conscientious Objection


The spread of demands by doctors and allied health professionals for accommodation of their private ethical, usually religiously based, objections to providing care of a particular type, or to a particular class of persons, suggests the need for a re-evaluation of conscientious objection in health care and how it should be regulated. I argue on Kantian grounds that respect for conscience and protection of freedom of conscience is consistent with fairly stringent limitations and regulations governing refusal of service in healthcare settings. Respect for conscience does not entail that refusal of service should be cost free to the objector.  I suggest that conscientious objection in medicine should be conceptualized and treated analogously to civil disobedience.


Professor Jeanette Kennett FAHA is Head of the Department of Philosophy and Deputy Director of Centre for Agency Values and Ethics, Faculty of Arts at Macquarie University.