Croatia’s chamber of medicine defends conscientious objectors in abortion case

NEWS 11.05.2022 11:03
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"The Croatian Chamber of Medicine (HLK) said on Wednesday the right to conscientious objection was guaranteed by international and national legal documents and regulations, rejecting unsubstantiated attacks on that medical institute and opposing its abolishing," state agency Hina said on Wednesday, summarizing a press release.

The HLK expressed regret and sympathy for the difficult situation Mirela Cavajda and her family have found themselves in, but noted that it did not consider the case to be about conscientious objection.

Cavajda is a 39-year-old who has requested a pregnancy termination because the fetus has been diagnosed with massive brain cancer six months into her pregnancy. She recently told the Index web portal that all hospitals in Zagreb she contacted had refused to do a termination of pregnancy despite the fact that doctors told her that the tumor was so big the child most likely would not live long, and even if it did, it would never have a normal life.

Her complaint against the hospitals’ decision is to be discussed by a second-instance commission at the KBC Zagreb Hospital, whose expert commission, formed last week at the request of Health Minister Vili Beros, was of the view that the child has a chance to live and that neurosurgical treatment is possible if the delivery goes well.

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, legally binding on all members, guarantees every individual the right to conscientious objection, in line with national legislation, the HLK said, recalling that that right is also guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In Croatian legislation, the right to freedom of conscience is regulated by the Constitution, while the right to conscientious objection for physicians is regulated by the Medical Profession Act and the Code of Medical Ethics, the HLK says, describing as unacceptable recent blanket criticisms of gynecologists in the media and public.

It expressed concern over Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomasevic’s statement that it was unacceptable that all medical staff at the Holy Spirit General Hospital (founded by the city of Zagreb) are conscientious objectors, with HLK president Kresimir Luetic claiming that by saying that Tomasevic was “exerting pressure on doctors.”

The HLK stresses that “the right to conscientious objection was often depicted  in public as an obstacle to exercising the legal right to abortion.”

According to HLK’s data, the service of pregnancy termination is available on request in 28 medical institutions in Croatia.

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