Acts and distance—a commentary on Brummett's ‘when conscientious objection runs amok’

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In his ‘When conscientious objection runs amok: A physician refusing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) preventative to a bisexual patient’, Brummett has argued that Catholic physicians (or indeed any other healthcare practitioner) should not be able to raise conscientious objections to HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis for bisexual patients, as this constitutes discrimination. Brummett argues that such a conscientious objection represents an instance of conscience creep, which he argues is undesirable. Here I re-analyse the case presented by Brummett using a teleological framework and making reference to Catholic teaching on cooperation with evil. While I agree with Brummett that in this case the physician should not have had the right to conscientiously object, I argue that the teleological framework offers advantages over the argument Brummett has presented. I also comment on why only considering empirically measurable harm as a publicly defensible reason for one to hold a conscientious objection is problematic, as well as on the difficulties associated with cases of discrimination in a pluralistic society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-216
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Ethics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


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