Welcome to the homepage for the Conscience Research Group

We are based at the University of Western Ontario and at Dalhousie University. We specialize in health care ethics and health law, and are investigating the permissibility of conscientious refusals by health care professionals to provide health care services such as abortions. Our particular concern is with refusals to provide reproductive health care services. Funding for our work is generously provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

The research involves five projects, each with their own distinct research questions, which we aim to answer in part from a feminist perspective.  Two of the projects (1, 2) will provide the necessary background for the other three projects (3, 4, 5).

1. The nature and value of conscience: what is morally at stake in denying health care professionals the ability to make conscientious refusals in reproductive health care? What does it even mean for a refusal to be conscientious (i.e., to issue from conscience)?

2. The impact on others: what is morally at stake in granting health care professionals the ability to make conscientious refusals in reproductive health care? What is at stake in particular for the women who are denied care?

3. Moral and legal limits on permissible refusals: given what’s at stake with these refusals, when, if ever, are they morally permissible? When are they legally permissible? Is there a demarca

tion line between permissible and impermissible refusals that we could legitimately draw for the sake of public policy?

4. Model policy documents: which policies about conscientious refusals ought to be in place in medicine and in other health professions, such as pharmacy?

5. Model curricula for physicians: which model curricula can we recommend, for medical students in particular?

Our core objective with projects 4 and 5 is to transfer the knowledge we gain from projects 1-3 to health policy-makers and health professional educators.