The Protection of Conscientious Objection against Euthanasia in Health Care

Keywords: religious rights, religious freedom, conscientious objection, Right to freedom of religion, euthanasia, medical ethics, the right to life, human dignity and religion, the right to privacy and religion, personal autonomy and religion

Abstract

In 2015 the South African judiciary was confronted with the issue of the so-called "right to die", when Robin Stransham-Ford applied to the High Court of South Africa (the North Gauteng Division) for an order to have his life terminated. Although the Supreme Court of Appeal set aside the order (on procedural grounds), the High Court's judgment paved the way towards renewed attention regarding the possible legalisation of euthanasia. A pertinent question arising from this is whether a medical practitioner may be compelled to participate in the administering of euthanasia. Bearing this in mind, this article argues for the protection of the rights of medical practitioners who conscientiously object to participating in the administering of euthanasia, especially where such an objection is based on religious beliefs. From this arises the necessity to investigate the rights applicable both to the medical practitioner and the patient (which focusses on the right to freedom of religion and personal autonomy), the weighing up against one another of the different meanings ascribed to such rights, as well as the postulation of a substantively competitive rationale against the background of the importance and sacredness of human life. This also overlaps with the importance of the endeavour towards higher levels of religious freedoms and consequently of plurality in democratic societies. Applying the proportionality test in the analysis whether a medical practitioner's rights may be reasonably and justifiably limited against the background of administering euthanasia also strengthens the argument for the protection of the medical practitioner's right to object conscientiously to the administering of euthanasia. This, together with the vacuum there is in substantive human rights jurisprudence related to this topic, suggests the importance of this article both for the South African context and beyond.

 

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References

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LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
AJIL American Journal of International Law
Ariz St LJ Arizona State Law Journal
B C Int'l & Comp L Rev Boston College International and Comparative Law Review
CLR California Law Review
Cornell L Rev Cornell Law Review
Duke LJ Duke Law Journal
EEA Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998
Harv L Rev Harvard Law Review
Int J Family Med International Journal of Family Medicine
IJRF International Journal for Religious Freedom
J Med Ethics Journal of Medical Ethics
Leg Ref Serv Q Legal Reference Services Quarterly
Loy LA L Rev Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review
LRA Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995
MAID Medical Assistance in Dying
Miss LJ Mississippi Law Journal
PAS Physician-Assisted Suicide
PELJ Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal
PEPUDA Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000
S Ill U LJ Southern Illinois University Law Journal
SAJBL South African Journal of Bioethics and Law
SAMJ South African Medical Journal
SAPL Southern African Public Law
SCA Supreme Court of Appeal
TSAR Tydskrif vir die Suid-Afrikaanse Reg
Yale JL & Human Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities
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Published
2019-09-20
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