Nearly 60 percent of respondents believe that the conscience rights of medical practitioners need to be protected; 40 percent do not.
Readers were also presented with a list of 11 medical interventions and asked from which of those interventions doctors and other medical professionals should be allowed to exempt themselves. Euthanasia drew the most votes, with 67 percent of respondents saying that medical professionals should be allowed to exempt themselves. After that, 61 percent indicated doctors should be allowed to exempt themselves from performing abortions.
However, when asked if doctors should be required to refer patients to another physician who will perform a given procedure, 71 percent of respondents said yes.
In their written responses, several readers invoked the Hippocratic Oath, from which the phrase “first do no harm” is derived.
Maura Martin, a nurse from Broomfield, Colo., wrote, “I would appreciate laws that protect my call to ‘first do no harm’ in regards to abortion and euthanasia. I went into this profession to help and heal. I don’t know how I would continue in my profession if this becomes a requirement in workplaces.”
Norma Kreilein, a physician from Jasper, Ind., believes that medical professionals should not be allowed to exempt themselves from any of the interventions listed.
“Doctors should not have to perform procedures they feel unqualified for, but there has to be a sound reason in their skill set,” she wrote. “Each of the procedures listed is a bit different ethically.”