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Right of Conscience of Medical Practitioners

Media Release

High Court Upholds Right of Conscience of Medical Practitioners

Right to Life welcomes the judgment of Justice McKenzie in the high court in Wellington on the Medical Council Guidelines. A group of courageous pro – life doctors challenged the Medical Council’s provisions relating to abortion included in its draft document titled, ” Beliefs and Medical Practice” The pro – life doctors had previously filed an application with the High Court in Wellington for a judicial review of the draft document.

The judgment found that the Medical Council guidelines for doctors dealing with the issue of abortion overstepped the law and need to be amended, the High Court has ruled.

Among the requirements in the Council’s beliefs and medical practice statement, doctors were required to ensure patients were aware that abortion was an option if they were concerned about their pregnancies. Doctors who did not want to provide the service are required to refer the request elsewhere, informing the person it could be obtained from another health practitioner, or family planning clinic.

In the decision released on Thursday 3 December 2010 Justice Alan McKenzie stated that the guidelines overstated doctor’s duties in one instance and in another, imposed obligations beyond those imposed by law. “This must be seen as a maximum obligation [of the Health Practitioners Competency Act] and not one which may be supplemented by the imposition of professional standards”

Right to Life believes that the judgment will also require the Abortion Supervisory Committee to amend its Best Practice Termination of Pregnancy document produced for the guidance of general practitioners to assist them in dealing with women with an unplanned pregnancy. On page 2, under Key Concepts, it states that “it is not the role of GPs to discuss their own personal views about termination, if a GP is not able to refer personally, then arrangements must be made for the woman to be seen as soon as possible by another doctor in the area.” Right to Life calls upon the Committee to immediately withdraw the document, advise general practitioners of the legal changes to the document. The document should than be amended as required by the High Court and reprinted.

The judgment will also require the New Zealand Medical Association to amend its code of ethics, paragraph 13 which states; “Doctors should accept the right of a patient to be referred for further management in situations where there is a moral or clinical disagreement about the most appropriate course to take.”

Right to Life contends that the judgment upholds the supremacy of an informed conscience. Abortion is a crime against humanity, it is a violent assault on a woman and her child that no law can legitimize. Doctors are the guardians and servants of human life.
There is a grave and clear obligation to oppose such laws by conscientious objection. Right to Life applauds those doctors who are faithful to the highest traditions of their profession and who refuse to be involved in the killing of the innocent. All doctors should respect life especially the life of their weakest and most defenceless patient, the unborn child. It is always wrong to kill the innocent. All doctors should provide care and compassion for women concerned with an unplanned pregnancy. We should love them both.

Ken Orr

© Scoop Media

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