CONFERENCE: Conscience And Conscientious Objection In Healthcare

Conscience And Conscientious Objection In Healthcare

Dates: 23-24 November 2015

Venue: University of Oxford
Oxford Martin School,
Seminar Room 1
34 Broad Street,
Oxford OX1 3BD [map]

Organizers: Julian Savulescu (University of Oxford), Alberto Giubilini (Charles Sturt University), Steve Clarke (Charles Sturt University)

The Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics (University of Oxford) and the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (Charles Sturt University) will host a conference on conscientious objection in medicine and the role of conscience in healthcare practitioners’ decision making.

The conference aims at analyzing from a philosophical, ethical and legal perspective the meaning and the role of “conscience” in the healthcare profession. Conscientious objection by health professionals has become one of the most pressing problems in healthcare ethics. Health professionals are often required to perform activities that conflict with their own moral or religious beliefs (for example abortion). Their refusal can make it difficult for patients to have access to services they have a right to and, more in general, can create conflicts in the doctor-patient relationship. The widening of the medical options available today or in the near future is likely to sharpen these conflicts. The conference will see the participation of experts in bioethics, philosophy, law and medicine, who will explore the topic of conscientious objection in its different dimensions, and will try to suggest solutions.

Booking: Participation is free, but registration is required (seats are limited). To register, please follow this link and select this event. Please note lunch will not be provided but there are many places around Broad Street to eat in or take away.

The conference is supported by the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (DP 150102068). We are grateful to the Oxford Martin School for providing the venue for the conference.


9.15-9.30 Introduction: Julian Savulescu (University of Oxford)

9.30-10.15 Mark Wicclair (University of Pittsburgh): Reasons, moral integrity, and conscientious objection

10.15-11.00 Kimberley Brownlee (University of Warwick): Medicine and morally messy relationships

11.00-11.30 Coffee break

11.30-12.15 Julian Savulescu (University of Oxford): Conscience, values, and a reasonable range of options

12.15-13.00 Steve Clarke (Charles Sturt University): Two concepts of conscience and their implications for conscience-based refusal

Break for lunch.

14.00-14.45 Francesca Minerva (University of Ghent): Conscientious objection and complicity in wrongdoing

14.45-15.30 Roger Trigg (University of Oxford): Conscientious objection and 'effective referral'

(Please note that we are finishing relatively early on the first day to allow those interested to attend Hugh LaFollette’s Moral Philosophy Seminar at 16.30. Details of Prof LaFollette’s talk can be found at )


9.30-10.15 Jeanette Kennett (Macquarie University): Kant, conscience, and professional roles

10.15-11.00 Hugh LaFollette (University of South Florida St Petersburg): My conscience may be my guide, but you may not have to honour it

11.00-11.30 Coffee break

11.30-12.15 Alberto Giubilini (Charles Sturt University): Objection to conscience. On good and bad objections in medicine.

12.15-13.00 Dominic Wilkinson (University of Oxford): Conscientious non-objection and medical dissensus in intensive care

Break for lunch.

14.00-14.45 Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Duke University): We Want Kids, Too: Should Doctors be Allowed to Refuse to Help Gay Couples have Children?

14.45-15.30 Tom Douglas (University of Oxford): Refusing to treat sexual dysfunction in sex offenders

15.30-16.00 Coffee break

16.00-17.00 Roundtable: Katrien Devolder (University of Oxford), Jeff McMahan (University of Oxford), Richard Sorabji (University of Oxford)

Download programme [PDF]

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