Polish Bishops Defend Doctors' Right to Conscientious Objection

Express Concern Over "Verbal Aggression" Against Pro-Life Medical Staff

Warsaw, (Zenit.org) | 874 hits

Polish bishops have responded after strong opposition to staff in the medical profession who have signed a pro-life Declaration of Faith.

The declaration recognizes “the primacy of God’s laws over human laws” in medicine and signatories have pledged not to play a part in abortion, birth control, in-vitro fertilisation or euthanasia.

The declaration was created out of gratitude for the canonisation of Pope St. John Paul II. The initiative came from physician and personal friend of John Paul, Wanda Półtawska.

In a statement, the Polish bishops remind those opposed to the declaration that refusing a right to conscientious objection undermines basic civilian freedoms. “We cannot forget that restricting a possibility of living these rights in personal life led to totalitarianisms in the past,” they have said.

They also warn that the aggression of the media and disciplinary pressure “are becoming the modern form of persecutions.”

Last month, a Polish doctor was dismissed after refusing on faith grounds to perform an abortion of a child with deformities. His dismissal was condemned by the Church in Poland.

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IN DEFENCE OF HEALTH SERVICE WORKERS

A statement of the Team of the Polish Episcopal Conference for Pastoral Ministry of the Health Service and the Ill

We are concerned to observe signs of verbal aggression towards representatives of the health service who signed the Faith Declaration. A special astonishment is aroused by the fact that according to critics of the declaration, in a democratic country a citizen cannot have different opinions than the ones which are imposed on by the binding correctness. One can remind that refusing doctors a right to proceed according to their conscience undermines the basic civilian freedoms, especially the right to freedom of conscience and religious beliefs which the art. 53 of the Constitution of the Polish Republic provides to all citizens without any exceptions. We cannot forget that restricting a possibility of living these rights in personal life led to totalitarianisms in the past.

As a Team of the Polish Episcopal Conference for Pastoral Ministry of the Health Service and the Ill, we support the initiative of Dr. Wanda Poltawska, and we support doctors who are threatened with professional liability and consequences because they have courage to build motivation of their medical ministry more deeply than only on the ordinary medical deontology which is diverging more and more from the Hippocratic Oath, like in what concerns unconditional defence of the human life.

We want to explain that the Faith Declaration was created in reference to the person and teaching of John Paul II, whose humanism is admired by the whole humankind. This humanism grows out of deep faith and religious look at the man, at his life and death. A doctor, who is inspired by the saint Polish Pope, can only be a better doctor, more sensitive to human suffering, more competent and responsible for his ministry fulfilled towards an ill person. Whereas if there is a demand for freedom of conscience, it only proves his high ethic standards which should be expected in the health service.

We hope that it is not necessary to convince anybody of absurdity of accusations against catholic doctors. It seems a paradoxical statement that a doctor signing the Faith Declaration can expose a patient to a danger of health or life loss, while this declaration defends the right of a doctor to refusal of actions whose purpose is termination of life (for example, abortion). So, a false picture of believers’ behavior should not be created, by describing their actions in the criminal categories whereas they become victims of interests game.

In relation to it, we address our request to the public authorities and opinino-making groups to respect personal beliefs of health service employees and counteract aggression of media and disciplinary pressure which are becoming the modern form of persecutions on the religious background. We express our hope that our attitude will meet with understanding of various social and political bodies. We are sure that the right to freedom of conscience in carrying our medical ministry towards an ill person in our health service will be respected according to the best customs and the Polish tradition of tolerance.

BISHOP DR. STEFAN REGMUNT, The chairman of the Team of the Polish Episcopal Conference for Pastoral Ministry of Health Service

FR. PROF. DR. ASSOC. STANISLAW WARZESZAK, The National Priest of Health Service and the Ill