Philosophy 318: Professional Ethics
Theodore Gracyk

Outline of Cantor and Baum Essay

WARNING: Explanations in this outline are systematically changed to remove the focus on medicine and pharmacists.

I. Arguments in favor of a right to object to serve a client

  • Professionals, even those who work with others as a coordinated team, are trained to exercise their professional judgment, which is always a personal evaluation. They must meet a basic duty of care.
  • Selection of clients is the norm for professionals. This does not change when a professional runs a business. So a pharmacist, for example, should not have to provide a service if it is contrary to his/her morals.
  • In a democratic society, conscientious objection is allowed for serious matters, especially involving life and death.

II. Arguments against a Right to Object

  • The interests of the client come first. The fiduciary duty of the professional is the client's good, as the individual client sees it. Anyone who enters a fiduciary profession must accept that the client may have a different idea of what is good for them, and must support it.
  • We are a secular society. Law does not generally permit religious justification for behavior that significantly affects others. Religious freedom requires us to recognize different religions allow different behaviors.
  • Religious decisions often create discriminatory behavior.

III. Balance

THREE POSSIBLE ways to go: professional has an absolute right to object, has no right at all, or has a limited right.

The first two choices are not acceptable. An absolute right to object erases any duty of care toward clients. No right to object will mean that professionals cannot evaluate multiple options and reject the ones they think incorrect in a particular case.

In deciding WHEN a professional can refuse services, the decision must be guided by the fiduciary responsibility that says that clients are not to fend for themselves. Therefore, refusal requires referral. Where referral is not practical in an emergency life-or-death situation, professionals cannot refuse services and it is right for the law to spell out their duties.


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            Last updated May 18, 2015