Catholic Medical Association’s chief warns of threats

The head of the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations says physicians should never be forced to choose between violating their conscience and facing professional sanctions when defending human life.

Dr John Lee wrote to the World Medical Association (WMA) protesting proposed changes in i ethicalts policy statements on abortion and on euthanasia.

The proposed changes will be discussed at the at the WMA council meeting in April.

Lee says two of the proposals would “facilitate worldwide abortion and euthanasia by curtailing doctors’ conscientious objection” by using”.

They would do this by using deceptive language, by pressure being put on doctors by national regulatory bodies and by using legal force “… to weaken national laws protecting human life”.

The WMA’s Declaration of Oslo on Therapeutic Abortion was last updated in 2006.

This says the Association “requires the physician to maintain respect for human life,” but “where the law allows therapeutic abortion to be performed, the procedure should be performed by a physician competent to do so in premises approved by the appropriate authority.”

It goes on to say: “If the physician’s convictions do not allow him or her to advise or perform an abortion, he or she may withdraw while ensuring the continuity of medical care by a qualified colleague.”

Lee says the proposed revision removes any distinction between “a therapeutic abortion” and “an elective abortion”.

It affirms “the physician who objects must nevertheless provide ‘safe abortion’ in some circumstances.”

The proposal also appears to remove the 2006 declaration’s reference to the “unborn child” and refers instead to the “foetus.”

Lee said he has also been told Canada and the Netherlands have proposed changes to the WMA’s euthanasia stance.

If passed, the changes would say the “WMA does not condemn physicians who follow their own conscience in deciding whether or not to participate in these activities” in jurisdictions where euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are legal”.

Lee says “By saying that the WMA does not condemn physicians who perform euthanasia where it is legal, the WMA is saying that euthanasia can be ethical if it is legal.”

Furthermore, Lee says “based on the Canadian experience, acceptance of the ethical neutrality of medically-assisted death has resulted in almost immediate challenges for physicians who are unable to refer (patients to other doctors) because of moral, religious or ethical concerns.

“It is a serious problem, with physicians put in the impossible position of having to choose between their conscience and being allowed to continue to care for their patients.

“Doctors who exercise their right of conscientious objection to abortion and euthanasia will find themselves victims of coercion by their professional societies and the state,” Lee wrote. “This oppression of the silent majority by the vocal minority cannot end well.”

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