C8 - The Ethics Forum – What does it mean to exercise “conscientious objection”?

Conference Hall A - Section A

Organised by the FIP Expert Group on Ethics, in collaboration with FIP’s Hospital Pharmacy Section and the YPG


Betty Chaar (The University of Sydney, Australia) and Maria Allinson (Keele University, UK)


Today in health care, patients’ entitlement to respect for their dignity and self-determination is paramount. In some countries, the limits or boundaries to self-determination have been extended to include the right to stop taking medicines (causing death) or even euthanasia (e.g. physician-assisted suicide). This can be a confronting issue for some pharmacists, particularly in providing medicines for the purpose of euthanasia and other related healthcare practices, when such practices are against their moral beliefs and/or cultural sensitivities. Most countries have a “conscientious objection” clause for pharmacists to opt out if needed. However, it is not always clear how that may be enacted in practice.

This session will explore pharmacists’ rights and duties in the context of conscientious objection and will inform the astute pharmacist about best practice recommendations from around the world. This will allow him or her to reflect on the place of self-determined moral values and his or her role in the professional conduct of health care.


09:00 – 09:10 Introduction by the chairs

  1. 09:10 – 09:45 What does it mean to exercise “conscientious objection”?
    Betty Chaar (FIP Ethics Expert Group, Australia)
  2. 09:45 – 10:20 Pharmacists’ moral distress and conscientious objection in relation to euthanasia
    Maria Allinson (Keele University, UK)

10:20 – 10:40 Coffee/tea break

  1. 10:40 – 11:15 Hospital pharmacy perspective on euthanasia in practice
    Robert Moss (FIP Hospital Pharmacy Section, The Netherlands)
  2. 11:15 – 11:50 Exercising conscientious objection in practice: Is it ethical?
    Debate: YPG vs the panel of experts, facilitated by Sami Isaac (FIP YPG, Australia)

11:50 – 11:55 Conclusion by the chairs

11:55 – 12:00 Room refresh

Learning Objectives

At the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Adopt “conscientious objection” and its connotations in practice
  2. Differentiate between different perspectives and cultural frameworks around the right of pharmacists to conscientious objection
  3. Translate their own moral stand on this topic into pharmacists’ involvement in challenging practice environments in the future.

Type of session: Application-based