Irish doctor defends 'fundamental right' to conscience protection

Dr. Ruairi Hanley
Dr. Ruairi Hanley


In a recent article for the Irish Medical Times, a doctor argued that although he may “vehemently disagree” with many of his Catholic colleagues on issues such as contraception, “they may be assured that I will passionately defend their fundamental right to practice medicine according to their conscience.”

Dr. Ruairi Hanley made his remarks in an April 29 article, commenting on what he feels is a blatant intolerance for Catholicism in Modern Ireland and arguing that Catholic doctors have a right to act according to their faith, in what he believes to be an increasingly state-controlled realm of medicine in the country.

Referencing the media firestorm over recently surfaced clerical sex abuse cases in the Church in Ireland, Dr. Hanley began by qualifying that he accepts that “it is open season on the Roman faith.”

“The revelations of child abuse and cover-ups are truly a disgrace to our nation,” he granted. “It is understandable that people feel distraught at what occurred over the past six decades. Those who are guilty must be severely punished and substantial compensation should be paid to all victims.”

“However,” he added, “the reality is that bishops have now taken all possible measures to ensure that clerical sex abuse is never allowed to happen again. They are doing their utmost to ensure child safety. I believe their efforts should be acknowledged rather than dismissed in a crescendo of angry screams for vengeance.”

“For some, child safety is no longer the issue,” the doctor argued, “their agenda is the destruction of Irish Catholicism. I cannot escape the suspicion that these scandals have been a most welcome development for those with a lifelong axe to grind with our religious establishment.”

Despite the ill-intent that some may have for Church, he noted, we “must never forget that for decades, religious orders effectively ran our health and education systems. Our fledgling nation was incapable of providing these services. Were it not for the Catholic Church, a generation would have grown up illiterate. Thousands of adults today owe their lives to the existence of hospitals run by those who wore a clerical uniform.”

Speaking on practicing Catholics that he has served alongside, Dr. Hanley said that “I have in the past worked with colleagues who refuse to prescribe the contraceptive pill. Although I greatly admire them, I vehemently disagree with their stance.”

“Nonetheless,” he asserted, “they may be assured that I will passionately defend their fundamental right to practice medicine according to their conscience.”

Dr. Hanley then referenced what he believed to be an unsettling story of a physician in Galway who runs a fertility clinic and recently refused his services to an unmarried couple. Though the doctor was made to appear before a medical council, he was eventually cleared.

Whether one agrees with the fertility clinic head's decision or not, said Dr. Hanley, “it appears that a medical practitioner, who has placed no patient at risk, can now be threatened with crucifixion for practicing medicine according to his conscience.”

“Will those opposed to social abortion, under a future government regime, find themselves facing potential career destruction for refusing to support such a procedure?” he asked.

In his concluding remarks, Dr. Hanley urged those with anti-Catholic sentiment within the medical sphere to “swallow your intolerance for Catholicism.”

“Suppress your anger and your left-wing desire for state control of medicine,” he entreated. “The independence of our profession must never be abandoned. And that fundamental principle will always include the right to practice medicine according to your conscience.”

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