Poland: Constitutional Court confirms and widens the right to conscientious objection for medical practitioners

c507cc24-07d7-4971-93f0-1ac269c2f61aThe Polish Constitutional Court (Trybunał Konstytucyjny) has issued an important decision concerning the right to conscientious objection in healthcare.

According to that decision the right to conscientious objection of physicians and healthcare workers can be limited only insofar as there is an urgent need to prevent death or serious threats to health. By contrast, it was unconstitutional to require them to act against their conscience „in other urgent cases”.

The Tribunal also ruled that it was unconstitutional to require a doctor invoking conscientious objection to refer a patient to another physician willing to provide the medical procedure against which conscientious objection is invoked.

As a result, several provisions of the Law on the Medical Profession (ustawa o zawodach lekarza) have been declared unconstitutional.

This is an important victory e.g. for doctors who refuse performing abortions. The ruling is significant especially because Poland has come under pressure from the European Human Rights Court (ECtHR) to limit the right to freedom of conscience in order to ensure the easy availability of abortion.