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The Role of Conscience in Medical Decisions

Daniel P. Sulmasy, OFM, MD, PhD

St. Joseph Medical Center
Kansas City, MO
August 6, 2009

Does conscience ever clash with professional duties? What do we mean by terms such as 'conscience' and 'conscientious objection'? How should one approach a request from a patient that conflicts with one's individual conscience?

Physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and a host of other health care professionals face this dilemma all across America. While recently there has been great interest in conflicts of conscience based upon religious beliefs, conscience is a universal phenomenon, conflicts are ubiquitous, and, fortunately, generally resolvable.

In this lecture, Dr. Daniel Sulmasy will discuss how medical professionals can strive to preserve their moral integrity while also respecting and serving patients with whom they might have deep moral disagreements.

Daniel Sulmasy, OFM, MD, PhD, is a Franciscan friar, general internist, and philosopher. He has published extensively in the areas of end-of-life decision making, ethics education and spirituality in medicine.

He serves as editor-in-chief of Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, and serves on the editorial boards of several other journals. He has published numerous articles in medical philosophical and theological journals. He has provided testimony to the U.S. Congress, the National Institutes of Health, and the President's Council on Bioethics.