The legal and ethical implications of abortions and conscientious objection

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Case Title: Samantha Broughton – Term 2

Describe the case as concisely as possible.
Samantha is a 15 year old school student with a previous history of miscarriage. She is in a sexual relationship with Tom who is 17 years old and has been prescribed oral contraceptives as a method of birth control. After failing to take the contraceptive as directed Samantha discovers she is pregnant. Samantha seeks help and advice from her GP (Dr Hannah Jenkins). At this consultation Samantha indicates to Dr Jenkins that she has discussed the pregnancy with her boyfriend Tom but not with her parents as they would not approve. Samantha tells Dr Jenkins that she knows she can have an abortion without her parent’s knowledge. It is at this point in the consultation that Dr Jenkins informs Samantha that she has a conscientious objection to abortion. She then tells Samantha that if this is her decision then she would have to be referred to a colleague, however, the only other female GP within the practice also has the same conscientious objection. Samantha is then told the names of external clinics and advised to come back in one weeks’ time with her mother if possible.
Summarize the ethical issue(s) raised by the case.
The main ethical issues within the aforementioned case include; medical practioners having a conscientious objection to abortion and requests for abortions in under 16s.
Provide a critical discussion of these issues. Ensure the discussion is balanced and relevant.
There are few medical procedures as argumentative and politically charged as the termination of pregnancy (BMA, 2014). Abortion is legal in England, Scotland and Wales (E, S & W) as long as the provided criteria are met and is governed by the Abortion Act (1987). Unless an abortion is necessary to save a woman’s life, doctors in E, S & W have a right of conscientious objection under the aforementioned Abortion Act (Department of Health, 2014). At the same time, patients have the right to receive objective and non-judgemental care (GMC, 2013). GPs are for many the first point of contact for individuals seeking advice and support. In this case Samantha appears to be a capable and competent young women who has sought the help and advice from her GP regarding her current pregnancy. What is less apparent is whether the issues that arose due Samantha’s consultation with her GP could have had a positive or negative effect on Samantha and her decision to go ahead with either an abortion or to proceed with the pregnancy. The following considerations will be looked at: – Dr Jenkins behaviour in relation to General Medical Council (GMC) guidelines on conscientious objection – Whether Dr Jenkins conscientious objection had the potential to cause undue stress for Samantha – What the legal position on providing an abortion or abortion advice to girls under 16 years are The GMC sets out clear guidelines for doctors who have a conscientious objection to providing particular treatments because of personal beliefs or values (GMC,

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