References

BBC News. Catholic midwives lose abortion case at UK Supreme Court. 2014. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-30514054 (accessed 15 August 2016)

Cowley C Conscientious objection and healthcare in the UK: why tribunals are not the answer. J Med Ethics. 2015; 42:69-72 https://doi.org/10.1136/medethics-2015-102692

Gallagher CT, Holton A, McDonald LJ, Gallagher PJ The fox and the grapes: an Anglo-Irish perspective on conscientious objection to the supply of emergency hormonal contraception without prescription. J Med Ethics. 2013; 39:(10)638-42 https://doi.org/10.1136/medethics-2012-100975

Heino A, Gissler M, Apter D, Fiala C Conscientious objection and induced abortion in Europe. Eur J Contracept Reprod Health Care. 2013; 18:(4)231-3 https://doi.org/10.3109/13625187.2013.819848

Holroyd MLondon: Penguin; 1971

Hughes JA Conscientious objection in healthcare: why tribunals might be the answer. J Med Ethics. 2016; https://doi.org/10.1136/medethics-2015-102970

Conscientious objection

02 September 2016
3 min read
Volume 24 · Issue 9

According to Holroyd (1971: 628), in March 1916 the author Lytton Strachey attended a tribunal, seeking exemption from conscription on the grounds of conscientious objection (CO). He was asked by a tribunal member, ‘…what would you do if you saw a German soldier attempting to rape your sister?’ Strachey replied: ‘I should try and come between them.’ The tribunal rejected his CO, but he was deemed medically unfit for service.

At first glance, the story of how a great author, and greater snob, avoided military service a century ago has little resonance with modern health care. But with rape a common weapon of contemporary war, a modern-day Strachey might argue that if his sister were raped by a soldier, he would recommend emergency hormonal contraception, which has been available without prescription since 2002 in the UK and 2011 in Ireland (Gallagher et al, 2013).

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