By Hilary White

LONDON, March 18, 2008 ( – British physicians will be required to post any “ethical objections” they may have to abortion according to a new document from the General Medical Council, the governing body for doctors in the UK.

The document, “Personal Beliefs and Medical Practice”, says doctors must be “open with patients – both in person and in printed materials such as practice leaflets – about any treatments they do not provide or arrange because of a conscientious objection but which are not otherwise prohibited”.

The document warns, “Serious or persistent failure to follow this guidance will put your [medical] registration at risk.”

Doctors have also been told they will be required to “set aside” these beliefs if a patient insists and will be required directly to refer patients to other doctors who do not share their ethical stand. No similar requirement is made of doctors who commit or refer for abortions or have no ethical objections to them.

John Smeaton, the director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said that “a peaceful resistance movement” would be an appropriate response by pro-life doctors.

Doctors who object to abortion or “other contentious medical issues” must display posters or give out information leaflets to patients detailing their ethical objections, according to new rules, called “guidance,” issued by the General Medical Council.

SPUC has responded by offering physicians posters for their offices that quote the ancient Hippocratic Oath that was required of most doctors before the advent of legalized abortion and euthanasia. It states, “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy.”

The Times lists other objections that have been cited by medical ethics organisations, including objections to “gender reassignment” surgery, artificial procreation treatments for lesbians and unmarried women and some cosmetic surgery procedures.

The guidance says, “You must not allow any personal views about patients to prejudice your assessment of their clinical needs, [including] patient’s age, culture, disability, gender, lifestyle, marital status, race, religion, sexual orientation, or economic status.”