Table of Contents
International Journal of Family Medicine
Volume 2013, Article ID 587541, 18 pages
Review Article

Ethical Diversity and the Role of Conscience in Clinical Medicine

1University of Alberta, 2935-66 Street, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6K 4C1
2University of British Columbia, 2329 W Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z4

Received 14 May 2013; Accepted 9 October 2013

Academic Editor: J. P. Sturmberg

Copyright © 2013 Stephen J. Genuis and Chris Lipp. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In a climate of plurality about the concept of what is “good,” one of the most daunting challenges facing contemporary medicine is the provision of medical care within the mosaic of ethical diversity. Juxtaposed with escalating scientific knowledge and clinical prowess has been the concomitant erosion of unity of thought in medical ethics. With innumerable technologies now available in the armamentarium of healthcare, combined with escalating realities of financial constraints, cultural differences, moral divergence, and ideological divides among stakeholders, medical professionals and their patients are increasingly faced with ethical quandaries when making medical decisions. Amidst the plurality of values, ethical collision arises when the values of individual health professionals are dissonant with the expressed requests of patients, the common practice amongst colleagues, or the directives from regulatory and political authorities. In addition, concern is increasing among some medical practitioners due to mounting attempts by certain groups to curtail freedom of independent conscience—by preventing medical professionals from doing what to them is apparently good, or by compelling practitioners to do what they, in conscience, deem to be evil. This paper and the case study presented will explore issues related to freedom of conscience and consider practical approaches to ethical collision in clinical medicine.