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08 Apr 2019

The AMA has updated its Position Statement on Conscientious Objection. It is the first update since 2013.

Dr Chris Moy, Chair of the AMA Ethics and Medico-Legal Committee, explains more about the new Position Statement in his column for the April 15 edition of Australian Medicine.

The concept of ‘effective referral’ is dealt with at length.

In short, the AMA states that medical practitioners are entitled to have their own personal beliefs and values as are all members of the community.

A conscientious objection occurs when a doctor, as a result of a conflict with his or her own personal beliefs or values, refuses to provide, or participate in, a legal, legitimate treatment or procedure which would be deemed medically appropriate in the circumstances under professional standards.

A conscientious objection is based on sincerely-held beliefs and moral concerns, not self-interest or discrimination.

It is acceptable for a doctor to refuse to provide or to participate in certain medical treatments or procedures based on a conscientious objection, but doctors have an ethical obligation to minimise disruption to patient care.

Doctors must never use a conscientious objection to intentionally impede patients’ access to care.

A doctor with a conscientious objection should inform the patient of their objection, preferably in advance or as soon as practicable, and inform the patient that they have the right to see another doctor. The doctor must ensure the patient has sufficient information to enable them to exercise that right, and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the patient’s access to care is not impeded.

Doctors must continue to treat patients with dignity and respect, even if they

object to the treatment or procedure the patient is seeking.

The updated Position Statement can be found at:


Published: 08 Apr 2019