Doctor wins landmark pro-life conscience rights case in Norway
OSLO, Norway, October 15, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Norwegian Supreme Court has made history by upholding a Polish physician’s right not to dispense abortion-inducing devices.
The court set a new precedent for freedom of conscience for doctors in the northern country on October 11 when it decreed that Dr. Katarzyna Jachimowicz had the right to refuse to perform a medical procedure that went against her conscience.
In December 2015, Jachimowicz was fired from her post as a family physician in the municipality of Sauherad for refusing to insert intrauterine devices (IUDs) into female patients. IUDs can act as abortifacients. Jachimowicz, a Roman Catholic, refuses to be part of any procedure that harms any human being, including a pre-born one.
A highly trained professional with more than 20 years of experience, Jachimowicz speaks Polish, Russian, and Norwegian, and reads English. Those skills made her an asset for both Norwegian and immigrant patients. Norway has a shortage of medical professionals, especially outside urban centers, and therefore depends on highly qualified immigrants to help carry the workload. Jachimowicz was born in Poland.
According to an interview Jachimowicz gave LifeSiteNews, when she was hired in 2010, her employer and colleagues understood that she would not destroy early human life.
“Life begins at conception and I [do] not want to take part in destroying it,” she said.
“All present agreed to my conditions, but I did not ask for written confirmation, knowing that an oral agreement is valid as well,” Jachimowicz told LifeSiteNews.
Attorney Håkon Bleken, who represented Jachimowicz before the Supreme Court, stated that the high court’s decision was “a step in the right direction” for all people of faith.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision marks an important step in the right direction, not only for doctors, but for people of faith in all professions,” he said. “The ruling protects one of the most fundamental rights, the right to act in accordance with one’s deeply held beliefs.”
Bleken said that Jachimowicz takes her vocation as a medical professional seriously.
“She vowed to protect life, and objected to having any part in taking it. The Court established today that she had every right to do so,” he added.
Robert Clarke, the director of European Advocacy for ADF International, said that nobody should have to choose between their conscience and their job.
“Nobody should be forced to choose between following their conscience or pursuing their profession. We welcome this ruling from the Norwegian Supreme Court. It will set new standards for the protection of fundamental conscience rights in Norway and beyond. The Court’s findings recognize the fundamental right to conscientious objection for medical staff, as protected by international law,” he said.
Previously a lower court in Norway had ruled in Jachimowicz’s favor, but healthcare authorities appealed the decision. According to ADF International, the human rights organization that supported the case, international law protects the right of medical staff to conscientious objection. However, there is increasing pressure on doctors in Europe to violate their consciences, the ADF director said.
“This win comes at a time when medical professionals across Europe are feeling increasingly threatened in their positions by a pressure to do things they believe to be morally wrong and unethical,” Clarke remarked.
“As such, it provides a valuable legal precedent in protecting this inherent freedom across the continent. This judgment sends a clear message to the Norwegian authorities that conscience is a fundamental right under the European Convention on Human Rights which must be protected.”
The UK’s Society for the Protection of the Unborn observes that this victory has come “amid fears” that the Irish government’s insistence that Irish general practitioners “refer for abortion will lead to doctors being forced out of healthcare.” It said also that if the campaign to decriminalize abortion in the UK is successful – its 1967 Abortion Act only permitted abortion in certain circumstances and within defined time limits – the nation’s medical professionals could be left without protection of their conscience rights.