Resolution 1763 (2010)1

The right to conscientious objection in lawful medical care


1. No person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion, the performance of a human miscarriage, or euthanasia or any act which could cause the death of a human foetus or embryo, for any reason.

2. The Parliamentary Assembly emphasises the need to affirm the right of conscientious objection together with the responsibility of the state to ensure that patients are able to access lawful medical care in a timely manner. The Assembly is concerned that the unregulated use of conscientious objection may disproportionately affect women, notably those with low incomes or living in rural areas.

3. In the vast majority of Council of Europe member states, the practice of conscientious objection is adequately regulated. There is a comprehensive and clear legal and policy framework governing the practice of conscientious objection by health-care providers ensuring that the interests and rights of individuals seeking legal medical services are respected, protected and fulfilled.

4. In view of member states' obligation to ensure access to lawful medical care and to protect the right to health, as well as the obligation to ensure respect for the right of freedom of thought, conscience and religion of health-care providers, the Assembly invites Council of Europe member states to develop comprehensive and clear regulations that define and regulate conscientious objection with regard to health and medical services, and which:

4.1. guarantee the right to conscientious objection in relation to participation in the medical procedure in question;

4.2. ensure that patients are informed of any conscientious objection in a timely manner and referred to another health-care provider;

4.3. ensure that patients receive appropriate treatment, in particular in cases of emergency.

1. Assembly debate on 7 October 2010 (35th Sitting) (see Doc. 12347, report of the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee, rapporteur: Mrs McCafferty; and Doc. 12389, opinion of the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, rapporteur: Mrs Circene). Text adopted by the Assembly on 7 October 2010 (35th Sitting).