Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 143–155 | Cite as

Conscientious objection and person-centered care

  • Stephen BuetowEmail author
  • Natalie Gauld


Person-centered care offers a promising way to manage clinicians’ conscientious objection to providing services they consider morally wrong. Health care centered on persons, rather than patients, recognizes clinicians and patients on the same stratum. The moral interests of clinicians, as persons, thus warrant as much consideration as those of other persons, including patients. Interconnected moral interests of clinicians, patients, and society construct the clinician as a socially embedded and integrated self, transcending the simplistic duality of private conscience versus public role expectations. In this milieu of blurred boundaries, person-centered care offers a constructive way to accommodate conscientious objection by clinicians. The constitutionally social nature of clinicians commits and enables them, through care mechanisms such as self-care, to optimize the quality of health care and protect the welfare of patients. To advance these conditions, it is recommended that the medical profession develop a person-centered culture of care, along with clinician virtues and skills for person-centered communication.


Conscience Refusal to treat Ethics Medical Person-centered care 



The authors wish to thank the Editor and anonymous reviewers of an earlier version of this article for their first-rate feedback and support. The authors also wish to thank the Managing Editor of the journal, Katelyn MacDougald, for her exceptional work on the final version of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of General Practice and Primary Health CareUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Queen Margaret UniversityEdinburghScotland, UK
  3. 3.School of Pharmacy, and Department of PediatricsUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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