Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department


First Advisor

Melinda Goldner

Second Advisor

Robert Baker

Third Advisor

Felmon Davis




conscientious objection, ethics training, physician, dilemmas, morals, moral conflicts, models of interaction, give and take


Doctors face situations within the medical arena in which their conscience -- as a person and as a professional -- conflicts with patient autonomy. Consider the terminally ill patient who wishes to end all treatment and elect to receive assisted suicide, and his physician who believes that aiding in death is a moral wrong. This creates a conflict of interests between physician and patient.

Historically, a paternalistic model of physician-patient interaction was employed to deal with dilemmas, contributing to infringement of patient’s rights and a lack of understanding of ethics on the part of the physician. This manifests as the physician having a limited outlook of treatment.

An increased emphasis on ethics training and implementation of the interpretive model of interaction within medical schools is necessary in order to retain the humanity and compassion of the medical profession. Implementing this revised model will protect the morals of both patient and physician, as it allows conscientious objection: a physician’s refusal of providing a certain treatment on the basis of personal morals that conflict with one or more of the values within medicine.

However, these requests for conscientious objection will not always be honored by the hospital if there are serious infringements upon the rights of the patient, causing a give and take of morality. It is necessary for physicians to be competent in the realm of ethics to communicate with patients on a human level and provide treatment that is in line with many of the conflicting tensions that physicians face.