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Doctors’ moral beliefs and public policy

Doctors’ moral beliefs and public policy
David Tobias Wardman


Hull York Medical School, University of York, York YO10 5DD, UNITED KINGDOM.


In this thesis, I address three related questions:
  • First, suppose we legalise some controversial medical practice tomorrow. Should we respect the moral objections of those doctors who object to the practice? I argue that we should indeed respect those objections, and I provide two complementary reasons for doing so.
  • Second, when the objections of doctors conflict with the interests of patients, how do we balance these two demands, and is there scope for compromise? I propose some criteria for resolving this conflict. I also suggest that the conventional compromise — compulsory referral — is morally problematic, and propose that the solution to this problem is to regard referral as ‘just another’ controversial medical practice.
  • Third, in circumstances where prioritising patients’ interests means that we will eventually decide to overrule doctors’ moral objections, how might we expect doctors to respond to this, and is there anything we can do to reduce the harm to them? In my final chapter, I sketch some possible answers to this question.