Readers Views: Conscientious objection is a right derived from the human right to freedom of conscience

In a resolution adopted in 2014, the European Parliament emphasised that 'the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is a fundamental human right'.

A European Parliament Briefing Document 2018 : Freedom of Conscience Around the World, acknowledges that freedom of conscience or opinion covers a wide range of beliefs and practices which reflect attitudes stemming from personal choices. The beliefs and practices involved are not easily categorisable.

Freedom of conscience covers a wide range of beliefs, held individually or collectively, making it more difficult to define than freedom of religion.

The briefing document notes that freedom of conscience is not upheld in every country: either the state itself is guilty of discrimination or persecution, or it is incapable of curbing violent social responses motivated by intolerance.

The upcoming election to the European Parliament offers the electorate an opportunity to ensure candidates are aware that the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 is silent about conscientious objection for pharmacists and other healthcare workers. Conscientious objection is a right derived from the human right to freedom of conscience.

Doctors and nurses ( and their students and trainees) are provided with the right to conscientious objection in this Act.

Pharmacists, pharmacy students and other healthcare staff (and students/trainees) are not provided with their human right and constitutional right to freedom of conscience in this Act.

Freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief applies to all persons equally. This includes pharmacists and other healthcare workers as well as doctors and nurses.

It is a universal human right that needs to be protected everywhere and for everyone,regardless of who they are, where they live or what professional qualifications they have.

Bernadette Flood PhD MPSI, Kilcock, Co. Kildare

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