The exercise of conscience is foundational to good medicine. It underlies every aspect of good medical practice, to make good patient care our first concern and to practice medicine safely and effectively.
Liberty of conscience is critical for individual doctors as it lies at the very heart of our integrity and self-identity. It is conscience that must compel doctors to refuse to participate in treatments they believe to be un-ethical or that they consider not to be in the best interests of patients.
It is not enough for doctors to simply be providers of medical services on demand from consumers or third parties, providing all that is legal whether or not it is consistent with their ethical base. To sacrifice conscience and be concerned only with service provision is to destroy the heart and soul of medicine.
Governments may legislate to permit certain practices or procedures but governments must never force doctors to violate their conscience by compulsory engagement in such practices or procedures.
Infringement of conscience is a serious challenge facing modern medicine. Medical codes of conduct must never be subject to degradation by government.