Medical conscience rights on the protection of right to life; the case of the Polish Hospital Director

According to the Resolution 1763 (2010) of the Council of Europe, 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.

 However, this resolution has been recently violated by causing the dismissal of a Hospital Director in Poland. This was the case of Professor Bogdan Chazan, a Polish Doctor of Medicine with an outstanding experience and achievements in polish and international medicine, who took upon himself, a written refusing of abortion to one of his patients, invoking the conscience clause by reminding the public about the validity of moral principles.

A solidarity letter has been signed by a number of MEPs in order to empower pressure on polish authorities by stating that it is relevant to impede this attack on freedom of conscience. The European Christian Political Movement (ECPM) is supporting this case also by claiming the protection of the conscience clause.

For the last ten years, as a director of Obstetric Hospital, he radically changed outdated medical facility into modern unit with twice lower perinatal mortality than the national average by reflecting in steadily increasing number of childbirths. For all the above mentioned years, there were no abortions in this hospital. Even though this attitude should be a model way for all health care providers whose first and foremost duty is to protect and save every human life, Professor Chazan endured administrative repression as a result of a huge media storm in Poland. He was accused of breaking the law, while using the Conscience Clause, as far as indication of the hospital, which would provide abortion, was needed.

On this perspective, several points need to be considered. Firstly, such an obligation is unenforceable, because there is no such a list of hospitals performing abortion provided by the national institutions; secondly, attempting the abortion would involve his complicity in killing, and for that reason the present form of conscience clause in Poland is being investigated as unconstitutional; thirdly, whereas the law allows carrying out only one inspection at a time and requires the hospital to respond beforehand, the local and national authorities, buckled under media pressure, ordered numerous inspections and revealed to the public unconfirmed results and allegations. Thus, before the inspections’ results, the President of Warsaw city decided to dismiss Professor Chazan as the hospital director. The dismissal (which was illegally taken during his previously scheduled vacation) was announced publicly before the professor was aware of. Moreover, in the past, and more precisely, 13 years ago, Professor Chazan served the national consultant in genecology and obstetrics. Already then, he lost his position because of the refusal, according to the conscience clause, to kill disabled children in abortion.

The ‘freedom of conscience’ which is legally protected by the proper conscience clause according to the Polish Constitution (Art. 53), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Art. 18) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Resolution 1763) was explicitly attacked, on the basis of which, ‘on no condition can any doctor be forced to participate in the attacks on the unborn children.’

This case should be used to raise awareness on the different dynamics within the EU member states. Individual responsibility and conscience of those who are responsible for every human life are significant. Therefore, all these events lead to think that responsibility and consciousness raising for every human life is necessary not only next to the polish authorities but to other EU member states also. 

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