Freedom of conscience and the rights of health service users
05 January 2014
Salvador Tarodo Soria, Doctor of Law and Philosophy at the Universidad del País Vasco
Recent legislation on the rights of health service users provides an appropriate legal framework within which to ensure respect for the autonomy of the individual within the health sector.
The increasingly diverse nature of our societies and the latest developments in medicine and biology have made our world a more interesting place, but have also made it more complicated. Moral and cultural pluralism means that we have to face the challenge of how to reconcile different concepts of life in a way which respects the values and principles enshrined in the constitution and does not violate our fundamental rights.
In the context of health, this pluralism has brought into stark relief the fact that a patient's welfare cannot be determined independently of the patient's own will. The decisions which a patient takes about his own health are probably one of the areas of his life in which he most clearly expresses his personal beliefs, which are protected by the right to freedom of conscience.
The existence of one's own space (right to privacy), the freedom to form an idea about issues which affect one's own health (right to health information) and the freedom to act in accordance with one's own beliefs (right to decide on issues which affect one's own health) are guarantees within the health context of the coherence of the individual, a source of self-respect and of respect for others, which our Constitutional Court has irrevocably linked to the dignity of the individual.
Tarodo,S. Libertad de conciencia y derechos del usuario de los servicios sanitarios.
Bilbao: Servicio Editorial.
Universidad del País Vasco/ Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatae, 2005. 408p.