What does the character of medicine as a social practice imply for professional conscientious objection?

Academic Article


  • The dispute over professional conscientious objection presumes a picture of medicine as a practice governed by rules. This rule-based conception of medical practice is identifiable with John Rawls’s conception of social practices. This conception does not capture the character of medical practice as experienced by practitioners, for whom it is a sensibility or “form of life” rather than rules. Moreover, the sensibility of medical practice as experienced by physicians is at best neutral, and at worst hostile, to the demands of those who would override physician conscientious objection to the provision of currently contested services. That being so, calls for overriding physician conscientious objection are much more demanding of the medical profession than they appear in light of Rawls’s view. As such overriding may entail the forcible transformation of medicine’s form of life, the author contends that it would be more prudent to provide contested services by circumventing the medical profession than by compelling it.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Huddle TS
  • Start Page

  • 429
  • End Page

  • 445
  • Volume

  • 38
  • Issue

  • 6