The Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues


This article explores the possibility of using employment law-based tort actions for wrongful discharge to permit healthcare professionals to invoke a positive right to provide medically appropriate, institutionally prohibited care. Although the scope and implications of conscience clauses and policies are extremely broad, the article focuses on the role of physicians in the provision of abortion-related services, which raises the central issues in their sharpest and most controversial context.

Part II of the article considers legislative and institutional policies on conscience clauses and some of the scenarios in which they arise. Part III reviews federal legislation and regulations on conscience clauses. Part IV discusses how a physician’s exercise of conscience is considered by leading codes of medical ethics. Part V reviews the elements and contours of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy when an employee reasonably and in good faith believes that certain conduct is required by an established principle of “professional conduct” in furtherance of the public interest. Part VI addresses the civic responsibilities of religiously affiliated hospitals. Part VII concludes with some observations about employment-based challenges to institutional conscience policies and notes some unanswered questions.





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Dov Fox

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