Remember Evil: Remaining Assumptions In Autonomy-based Accounts Of Conscience Protection

  • Bryan C. PilkingtonEmail author
Critical Response


Discussions of the proper role of conscience and practitioner judgement within medicine have increased of late, and with good reason. The cost of allowing practitioners the space to exercise their best judgement and act according to their conscience is significant. Misuse of such protections carve out societal space in which abuse, discrimination, abandonment of patients, and simple malpractice might occur. These concerns are offered amid a backdrop of increased societal polarization and are about a profession (or set of professions) which has historically fought for such privileged space. There is a great deal that has been and might yet be said about these topics, but in this paper I aim to address one recent thread of this discussion: justification of conscience protection rooted in autonomy. In particular, I respond to an argument from Greenblum and Kasperbaur (2018) and clarify a critique I offered (2016) of an autonomy-based conscience protection argument which Greenblum and Kasperbaur seek to improve and defend. To this end, I briefly recap the central contention of that argument, briefly describe Greenblum and Kasperbaur’s analysis of autonomy and of my critique, and correct what appears to be a mistake in interpretation of both my work and of autonomy-based defenses of conscience protection in general.


Conscientious objection Autonomy Duty to refer Practitioner judgement 



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Copyright information

© Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Pty Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Seton Hall UniversityNutleyUSA

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