The Ethics of Conscientious Objection to Teaching Physician-Assisted Death
The American journal of hospice & palliative care
assisted suicide; bioethics; conscience; euthanasia; palliative care
The literature on the ethics of conscientious objection focuses on objections to in morally contested practices. This literature emphasizes the potential for participation to undermine objecting clinicians' moral integrity. Significantly less attention has been given to conscientious objection to morally contested practices. Thus, it is unclear whether teaching morally contested practices has the potential to undermine objecting educators' moral integrity, and to the extent that it does, what steps can be taken to address this concern. We accordingly examine the ethics of conscientious objection to teaching morally contested practices, with a focus on teaching physician-assisted death (PAD) to trainees in US palliative care programs. We focus on three primary components of teaching PAD: (1) teaching the history and context of PAD; (2) teaching trainees how to understand and respond to requests for PAD; and (3) teaching trainees how to provide PAD. We argue that teaching components one and two has little potential to undermine objecting educators' moral integrity. Moreover, permitting objecting educators to opt out of teaching components one and two might undermine the education of trainees. In contrast, allowing objecting educators to opt out of teaching how to provide PAD may be important to preserving their moral integrity, and is unlikely to undermine trainees' education. We argue that educators should be permitted to opt out of teaching trainees how to provide PAD and describe policies that training programs can adopt to implement this approach.
Berens, Noah; Mahon, Margaret M.; Roth, Katalin; Berger, Ann; and Wendler, David, "The Ethics of Conscientious Objection to Teaching Physician-Assisted Death" (2023). GW Authored Works. Paper 3583.