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Conscientious Objection, Professional Ethics and Public Spheres

Montgomery, JR; (2015) Conscientious Objection, Professional Ethics and Public Spheres. Presented at: Dying Well: Enacting Medical Ethics, St Bartholomew’s Hospital Pathology Museum, London. Green open access

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Abstract

Conscience matters deeply, but professional roles are not merely personal. They involve shared identities, values and responsibilities. We all have multiple roles and identities. Professor Bernhardi is at once a doctor and a Jew, a hospital director and a father. These identities are both personal and archetypal. They are also vocational, as is the role of priest. The ‘calling’ is to something pre-defined, to serve in a particular role. Professional conscience can never be a truly private matter. The four acts illuminate the interplay between roles and expectations; changing by location, time and space, including the degree to which they can accommodate personal adaption. The clinic has its own hierarchy of authority. Professor Bernhardi, as doctor, is in charge. There is no place for conscientious objection. The focus is on matters of the body. The patient becomes a person only when the priest challenges the jurisdiction of the doctor, and in response Professor Bernardi becomes her protector. Professor Bernhardi the Director has different responsibilities. The reputation of his hospital matters. He can contemplate an apology now that time is not critical. It is about the ‘big picture’ and the conflict is portrayed within grand battles; faith against science, darkness against light. We should encourage full, unconstrained, conscientious engagement in such debates. In the Hospital Board Room, the play makes comedy of the rivalries and factions of hospital life, but it also models a process of negotiation over the resolution of competing claims. We should respect conscience in service organization, but balance it with patient’s rights. Finally, in the privacy of Professor Bernhardi's home, the doctor and priest might unburden themselves of their roles in favour of an underlying common humanity. In fact, the attempt to do so collapses and they cannot avoid their public identities.

Type: Conference item (Presentation)
Title: Conscientious Objection, Professional Ethics and Public Spheres
Event: Dying Well: Enacting Medical Ethics
Location: St Bartholomew’s Hospital Pathology Museum, London
Dates: 26 September 2015 - 26 September 2015
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: http://backdoorbroadcasting.net/2015/09/dying-well...
Language: English
Additional information: The Symposium reflected on responses to a production of Arthur Schnitlzer’s play Professor Bernhardi by [Foreign Affairs], an international theatre company based in East London. The translation was by Judith Benniston with Nicole Robertson. The director was Trine Garrett. For further details, see www.foreignaffairs.org.uk. Podcasts from the Symposium, including the oral presentation of this paper, are at http://backdoorbroadcasting.net/2015/09/dying-well-enacting-medical-ethics/
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Laws
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1471450
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