Mexican healthcare professionals oppose bill restricting right to conscientious objection — By: Catholic News Agency

Flag of Mexico. / Credit: David Ramos/ACI Prensa

ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 8, 2023 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

The medical profession in Mexico is defending its right to conscientious objection after the federal Chamber of Deputies (lower house) passed a bill that changes the country’s General Law on Health to make it conform with a Supreme Court ruling restricting that right.

The legislation was approved in general by the plenary session of the Chamber of Deputies on Oct. 31, with by a vote of 304-101 with 13 abstentions. After its passage, it was sent for review and debate in the country’s senate.

The bill was passed to adhere to the ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) — the highest judicial body in Mexico with the powers of a constitutional court — which in September 2021 declared invalid Article 10 Subsection 1 of the General Law on Health which regulates conscientious objection by health personnel in Mexico.

At a Nov. 5 press conference, Dr. Luis Francisco Molina Jai, president of the Mexican College of General Medicine, on behalf of 60 federations, associations and medical colleges in Mexico, condemned the “criminalization” of the exercise of the right to conscientious objection that the bill establishes.

“We proclaim and lay claim to our autonomy and freedom as health professionals and we demand the right to conscientious objection that belongs to us and that we be allowed to exercise our rights, as well as to freely practice our profession,” he said.

Dr. José Narro, who was Mexico’s Secretary of Health from 2016 to 2018, joined the voices of concern at the press conference and called on the senate’s political coalitions to hold discussions about the freedom of health professionals and their right to conscientious objection.

Narro, who is also the former rector of the National Autonomous University of Mexico expressed his concern, warning that the initiative “attacks that essential freedom that health professionals must have to act in accordance with their convictions, their beliefs, their ethics, for their ability to see and analyze professional situations and at the same time attend to the right of patients who come to them to have their health protected.”

Dr. Rosario Laris, director general of the Safe Sex platform who holds a doctorate in bioethics, provided at the press conference an explanation of conscientious objection in the context of the medical profession.

Laris explained that “conscientious objection also arises from the knowledge that the health professional has acquired thanks to his academic preparation and that he continues to gain with the sum of his daily experience, which allows him to consider whether any treatment is appropriate or not for his patient.”

“That is, this ‘conscience’ impels him to seek the good of the patient at all times,” she stressed.

Representative Éctor Jaime, a member of the Health Committee in the Chamber of Deputies, called “for the Senate of the Republic to hold an open [session of] parliament and allow the errors committed by Morena legislators and their allies to be discussed in order to guarantee the right to health.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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