Opinions on conscientious objection to induced abortion among Finnish medical and nursing students and professionals
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CitationNieminen, Petteri. Lappalainen, Saara. Ristimäki, Pauliina. Myllykangas, Markku. Mustonen, Anne-Mari. (2015). Opinions on conscientious objection to induced abortion among Finnish medical and nursing students and professionals. BMC Medical Ethics;16:17, doi:10.1186/s12910-015-0012-1.
Background: Conscientious objection (CO) to participating in induced abortion is not present in the Finnish health
care system or legislation unlike in many other European countries.
Methods: We conducted a questionnaire survey with the 1st- and the last-year medical and nursing students and
professionals (548 respondents; response rate 66–100%) including several aspects of the abortion process and their
relation to CO in 2013.
Results: The male medical respondents chose later time points of pregnancy than the nursing respondents when
considering when the embryo/fetus “becomes a person”. Of all respondents, 3.5–14.1% expressed a personal wish
to CO. The medical professionals supported the right to CO more often (34.2%) than the nursing professionals
(21.4%), while ≥62.4% could work with someone expressing CO. Yet ≥57.9% of the respondents anticipated social
problems at work communities caused by CO. Most respondents considered self-reported religious/ethical conviction
to be adequate for CO but, at the same time, 30.1–50.7% considered that no conviction would be sufficient. The
respondents most commonly included the medical doctor conducting surgical or medical abortion to be eligible to
CO. The nursing respondents considered that vacuum suction would be a better justification for CO than medical
abortion. The indications most commonly included to potential CO were second-trimester abortions and social reasons.
Among the medical respondents, the men were more willing to grant CO also in case of a life-threatening emergency
of the pregnant woman.
Conclusions: While the respondents mostly seemed to consider the continuation of adequate services important if CO
is introduced, the viewpoint was often focused on the staff and surgical abortion procedure instead of the patients.
The issue proved to be complex, which should be taken into consideration for legislation.