Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 68(2) May 2018


Joint Ethico-Medical Committee Report
5 November 2017

Dr Philip Howard. President of the Catholic Medical Association.

General Pharmaceutical Council Consultation (Conscientious objection).

The General Pharmaceutical Council sought to change the Ethical Code for Pharmacists.  This would have moved the Ethical Code away from an objective ethic which seeks to ensure the health, wellbeing and safety of patients and to maintain the trust and confidence of the public.  Instead, it is now promoting patient centred care with a subjective ethic which seeks to satisfy the wishes of the client requesting Pharmacy services.  This proposed that Pharmacists  “recognise their own values and beliefs but do not impose them on other people [and] take responsibility for ensuring that person-centred care is not compromised because of personal values and beliefs.”  The Council recognised that this would be a significant change from the current position and goes on to state that “a referral to another service provider might not be the right option, or enough, to ensure that person-centred care is not compromised.”

The Council published its Guidance on 22nd June. It makes it clear that referral is still an option, except where a service is not accessible or available elsewhere. This means that in the overwhelming majority of cases Pharmacists can still exercise their right of conscientious objection.  This will have favourable repercussions for other healthcare professionals.

UN Human Rights Committee consultation on Human Rights (Article 6 of ICCPR: Right to Life).

The UN Human Rights Committee has recently consulted on Article 6 (‘Right to Life’) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The six underlying foundational principles within the Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent Conventions are inclusion, inherency, equality, inalienability, indivisibility and universality.

Inclusivity means that the rights refer to “everyone” and “every person” without discrimination. 

Inherent means that all living beings by virtue of their humanity and membership of the human family. They are not conferred rights that are granted by external government.  

Inalienability refers to rights that cannot be removed, destroyed, transferred or renounced even by the individuals themselves, their parents or Society. 

Equality means that no human beings are “more equal” than others but that everyone has equal rights as members of the human family.  

The inalienable rights of all human beings, both before and after birth, must continue to be respected by the United Nations and Article 6 of the ICCPR. There is a definite move to regard abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia and other forms of mediatised killing as human rights.   If Article 6 were to be changed, this would require both a two thirds majority at the UN and endorsement by individual Member States.  Nevertheless, there is a concern that the UN is also pushing the agenda of “safe abortion” as a means of population control and there is a growing move towards “eugenic” abortions in the case of Down’s syndrome and other congenital conditions. There is also a persistent move towards assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Dr Philip  Howard MA, LLM, MA, MD, FRCP