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Addressing Conscientious Objection in Healthcare

Insights from the 2023 Healthcare in a Civil Society Forum

by Liz Ramirez

The Tarrant County Academy of Medicine Ethics Consortium, in partnership with Tarrant County Medical Society, hosted Healthcare in a Civil Society on Saturday, February 25, 2023. The annual forum’s central theme focused on “Conscientious Objections in Health Care: Patient Autonomy and Provider Integrity.” 

TCMS President Stuart Pickell, MD, joined Steve Brotherton, MD, as HCS moderator and welcomed their keynote speaker, Farr Curlin, MD, at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.  

“Dr. Curlin is an internationally known expert on physician conscience and conscientious objection,” said Dr. Pickell. “He is particularly concerned with the moral and spiritual dimensions of medical practice, the doctor-patient relationship, and the moral and professional formation of physicians. His areas of expertise are medicine, medical ethics, doctor-patient relationship, religion and medicine, and conscience.” 

On the panel, Dr. Curlin was accompanied by panelists Maxine M. Harrington, JD; Alan Podawiltz, DO; and UNTHSC President, Sylvia Trent-Adams, Ph.D., RN. In the discussion, Preston “Pete” Geren, JD, moderated a panel about educational topics like state intrusion into practice, the effect of providers performing unethical acts, and how medical educators can train students to recognize moral injury. 

Participants had the opportunity to interact in small groups and prepare questions for the panelists during the breakout session, where panelists discussed the impact of government and institutional intrusion into medical practice, its effect on healthcare providers, and what providers can do to address it.  

“While this event targets medical professionals, anyone who has an interest in the doctor-patient relationship- how it has evolved, where it is heading and implications for the future of healthcare- will find this program helpful,” said Dr. Pickell.

The Tarrant County Academy of Medicine Ethics Consortium believes anyone in the community with an interest to improve healthcare can benefit from this program. The event wouldn’t be possible without the support of Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cook Children’s Medical Center, JPS Health Network, and the University of North Texas Health Science Center. 

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