Doctors should warn patients if their beliefs affect advice

Doctors who conscientiously object to IVF or abortion should make their position clear to patients at the start of consultations about either procedure, says the BMA.

However, delegates at the BMA’s annual representative meeting (ARM) rejected proposals for practices to make it clear in advance which doctors were willing to provide advice about these issues.

The ARM agreed that doctors should also be able to conscientiously object to withdrawing or withholding life-supporting medical treatment in patients without capacity.

But Dr Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon and a member of the BMA’s medical ethics committee, said doctors should not be able to refuse treatment in any other areas.

‘This is a clear signal from the medical profession to the GMC and parliament that doctors should not have a broad right to refuse to care for or treat patients according to their own personal beliefs or prejudices.

‘Patients needing treatment for alcoholism or women who need contraception should not be faced with the possibility of a
doctor refusing to treat them on religious or other grounds.’

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