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Contending Conscientiously for Good Medicine

[1 Credit Hour]
This course is available for physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner continuing education. A general attendance certificate is also available.

Recorded live at The Right of Conscience and Cultural Change in Medicine conference held in Dallas, TX on February 29, 2020.
Original Release Date: 3/1/20
Termination Date: 2/28/23

What should a clinician do when a patient asks for a legal medical intervention to which the physician has a religious or other moral objection? Many argue that in such cases, it would be unethical for the clinician to refuse what the patient seeks, as such refusals seem to impose a physician’s personal values on what should be strictly professional decisions. In this talk, Farr Curlin will unpack what the conscience is and how it operates. He will suggest that conscientious refusals should and usually do express a commitment to good medicine, and he will argue that at root in contemporary disputes about conscience are two rival and incompatible visions of what medicine is for.


  • Describe what the conscience is and how it operates to inform and guide human decisions.
  • Discuss how the clinician's conscience operates in the everyday practice of medicine.
  • Describe how "personal values" and "professional obligations" relate to one another in the work of clinicians.
  • Evaluate how the profession’s treatment of conscientious refusals impacts the way doctors and patients understand their obligations to one another.