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Med Students for Life of America


Knowing your rights as a medical student has never been more important. Please use this informa:on as a guide for your medical educa:on. If you feel your right of conscience has been violated in anyway, please contact Medical Students for Life for assistance.

What is Right of Conscience?

Right of Conscience (ROC) is the right of medical students, institutions and healthcare professionals to exercise their conscience and refusal to participate in or cooperate with certain medical practices or procedures they deem morally, ethically or religiously objectionable.

Rationale for a Right of Conscience

Until recently, there has never been any question of medical students and healthcare professionals right to practice according to their conscience. However, with increasing clashes of ethical issues in healthcare, the rights of physicians and other healthcare professionals are under attack. This issue reaches beyond medical students and doctors in an examine room to pharmacists who are unable to fulfill prescriptions for progesterone-only contraceptives or lethal doses of medications for assisted suicide due to their moral beliefs.

Present Protections: The Law and Regulations

As far as setting the law on this controversial issue goes, one of the main concerns that is repeatedly displayed is deciding who should have the final say, healthcare providers or their patients. Besides federal right of conscience protections laws, each state in the United States has its own set of conscience laws for physicians and other healthcare providers. There are 45 states that have some sort of conscience laws on the issue of abortion alone.
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Know Your Own Values

What should you do if you are faced with defending your actions (or lack of participation) in a healthcare ROC situation? First and foremost, you need to know your own values. Learn as much as you can about the ethics behind todays controversial medical treatments and procedures. Once you have done your research, you mentally need to draw the line in the sand on what medical procedures and treatments you feel comfortable with and consider moral or immoral.

Compelled Participation
Compelled participation of medical students and faculty in advocacy of views and participation in procedures, both in and out of the classroom, that are contrary to their beliefs is unconstitutional. You have a right to not participate. All public university students and faculty/staff members, regardless of their beliefs, deserve to be treated equally: free from censorship, reprisal, and punishment. When you as a medical student or healthcare professional let your stance be known on a certain situation or procedure, be prepared though to be belittled, ridiculed, threatened, discriminated and ostracized by some of your patients, colleagues and supervisors. However, you are not alone. Med Students for Life of America is here to help you deal with these difficult situations and find free legal counsel if you fear your grade will be lowered or your position terminated because of your conscience beliefs.

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The Exception to the Rule: Medical Students at Private Institutions

According to attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), in most cases medical students and facility at private medical schools are not eligible for right of conscience protections unless the school receives taxpayer funding, such as grants. However, the good news is that many private universities do receive some sort of taxpayer funding. If you need to know whether or not you fall into this category, contact Med Students for Life immediately so that we can pair you with an ADF attorney who will speak with you free of charge and confidentially.

If you have questions or feel that your right of conscience is being violated by your medical school, please contact Medical Students for Life at

We are here to help.

Sources: Alliance Defending Freedom: h3p:// Chris:an Medical and Dental Associa:on: h3p://
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