Bernard Dickens


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    Conscientious commitment
    Freedom of conscience is a human right
    recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human
    Rights of 1948. Accordingly, the U.N. International
    Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides
    that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom
    of thought, conscience and religion” (Art.18(1)).
    Conscience is thereby expressed as separate
    from religion. Individuals may, of course, base
    their conscience on their religious beliefs, but
    the Covenant establishes that religion has
    no monopoly on conscience. A common
    invocation of conscience regarding abortion is in
    conscientious objection to participation, which is 

    often based on religious convictions.
    Conscientious commitment is the reverse of
    conscientious objection. It arises when healthcare
    providers feel conscientiously committed to
    offer patients advice and services to which
    administrators of their healthcare facilities such
    as hospitals are opposed in principle, for religious
    or comparable reasons. Institutions such as
    hospital corporations cannot claim human rights
    such as conscientious objection. Health facility
    administrators must accommodate service
    providers’ rights of conscience, such as to
    recommend and offer services the providers
    conscientiously consider to be in their patients’ best
    interests, and, with patients’ consent, to provide,
    or refer patients for, such services, including lawful
    abortion, without discrimination, in the same way
    that facility administrators must accommodate
    providers’ rights of conscientious objection.