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Conscientious objection and physician-assisted suicide: a viable option in the UK?
  1. Derek Willis1 and
  2. Rob George2
  1. 1 Department of Medicine, University of Chester, Chester, UK
  2. 2 St Christopher’s Hospice, Cicely Saunders Institute Kings College, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Derek Willis, Medicine, University of Chester Faculty of Health and Social Care, Chester CH1 1SL, UK; derekwillis35{at}


Conscience objection is a proposed way of ensuring that medical practitioners who object to physician-assisted suicide may avoid having to be involved in such a procedure if this is legalised. This right on the part of healthcare professionals already exists in certain circumstances. This paper examines the ethical and legal grounds for conscientious objection for medical professionals and shows how it is heavily criticised in circumstances where it is already used. The paper comes to the conclusion that as the grounds and application of conscience objection are no longer as widely accepted, its future application in any legislation can be called into question.

  • ethics
  • conscientious objection

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.