Oral Presentation Australasian Association of Bioethics & Health Law and New Zealand Bioethics Conference

Should Professional Interpreters be able to Conscientiously Object in Healthcare Settings? (1018)

Nathan Emmerich 1 , Christine Phillips 1
  1. Medical School , ANU, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Whilst the notion that healthcare professionals are able to conscientiously object to certain medical practices, such as abortion and euthanasia, is well established it remains a topic of academic debate. Some reject think we should disallow such claims entirely. Others advocate for a relatively wide acceptance of such claims. However most seek to delimit its scope or the boundaries of its license. In an attempt to illuminate something of this issue, we consider whether or not professional interpreters working within healthcare should be afforded the same or similar access to established conscientious objections i.e. those to which healthcare professionals can lay claim. Focusing on Australia, we argue that the conscientious objections of interpreters should not be accommodated. This conclusion is consistent with the Code of Ethics promulgated by their own professional body, the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT). Having drawn this conclusion we then consider its implications for the way conscientious objection should be understood. We suggest that whilst the existence of a reasonably well-founded moral objection is essential, more is required to establish a broader right of being able to conscientiously object to some act or activity. Thus, we develop the view that conscientious objections are socio-political devices that serve to accommodate good faith moral disagreement in some cases, such as healthcare professionals, but need not do so in all cases, such as professional interpreters working in healthcare.