Conscience and competing liberty claims

Sister Renée Mirkes, Edwrd A. Morse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Some treatment requests from gay patients seriously conflict with the religious or moral beliefs of their respective medical providers. Not all legal solutions to these disputes serve the common good. Therefore, this article proposes that state healthcare conscience protection statutes provide the most effective way to resolve these liberty conflicts and to serve the medical needs of all patients. Part one of this manuscript showcases four clinical scenarios that illustrate how a clash of liberty claims between homosexual patients and their respective clinicians could play out within today's healthcare setting. Part two describes the centrifugal legal forces that are shaping judicial opinion to favor sexual liberty interests over religious conscience concerns. Part three argues for a tri-phasic political solution. We encourage healthcare providers: (1) to present their state legislators with a conscience primer-reasons why, as legislative guardians of the common good, they need to care about conscience protection for healthcare professionals; (2) to prevail upon their legislators to sponsor and enact robust state healthcare conscience protections; and (3) to dialogue with the gay community and their advocates, making the case that, first, diversity of the marketplace is the most effective way to match the diverse needs of all patients and, second, a dialogical, rather than a coercive, method of accessing care is the best way to serve the good of all.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-39
Number of pages17
JournalEthics and Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 26 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy


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