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Question

Dear Father Angelo,

I am writing to clarify how I will have to behave about an issue that, for a while, has made me perplexed. I am a medical doctor who is currently applying for admission to the cardiology specialization program. However, recently, I have been wondering what the position of a conscientious objector cardiologist is who is requested for a medical report / performing tests on a woman who wants to undergo an abortion.

These are usually preoperative examinations, routinely required before each surgical operation (in fact the request would also be made for a patient who had to undergo a different kind of surgery). I mean: with regard to these procedures, does the cooperation of the doctor, albeit a conscientious objector, morally fall within complicity in bringing about the abortion, even though, in fact, not directly participating in the abortion procedure? I ask because, as a resident, I will surely be given examinations to be reported about and already when substituting for another doctor I wrote examination reports for a person who wanted to undergo assisted fertilization (and here I am perplexed about my “participation”). Basically, I ask myself: when can we say that we are participating in an abortion? The boundaries at the moment seem a little fuzzy to me, and I know that if I were admitted to the cardiology program, saying “I will not report on electrocardiograms of patients who want to have an abortion” (even though I have stated this when I enrolled with the State Medical Board) is a sort of “professional suicide” (the environment today is hostile to objectors, in particular if they create a slowdown in the activities of a department that in itself would not be directly involved).

In practical terms: usually, in the hospital, a cardiologist is sent an electrocardiogram. The report on the electrocardiographic trace is an element that, together with others, concurs to help the surgeon decide whether the operation can be done without risk or cannot be done. In practice, in itself it is equivalent to answering the surgeon’s question: is the patient’s heart healthy?

Personally, I have always thought that it was not equivalent to participating in the abortion procedure, since it is the same question that arises in other cases, surgical procedures, sports fitness evaluations, etc.

But as the specialization exam approaches, I feel more and more like I could be wrong in my evaluation.

Thank you for your attention, and I ask for your prayers, because in order to testify my faith with my life (even professionally), I will need a lot of courage.


Answer from the priest

Dear Friend,

I can finally reply to your email from last June. I apologize for the delay (nine months have passed) and thank you for your patience.

1. I express my answer to your question in an interlocutory way.

I ask you: if they told you: “go and inspect the surroundings of that house to check that there is no one there because we want to commit theft”, would you go there?

Evidently not.

Likewise: if you are near a house and someone asks you to see if there are people nearby because they have to maneuver around with their car, would you do what you were asked to do?

Yes, you would. It is a form of kindness.

2. Well, similarly: if you are directly told that you must report on the examination in view of an abortion, that is, the killing of a child, you must appeal to your conscience and say no.

Likewise: if you are asked to check what the heart condition of a number of patients is, without being told what the reason for that examination is, you just do it, because that is your duty.

If there are some women in the group of people who undergo that examination in order to have an abortion, it’s not up to you to ask what the reason why they are there is.

In this case, there would be no specific cooperation on abortion on your part.

3. For now this is my answer.

I add “salvo meliori iudicio“, that is, except for a better judgment if some unknown or underestimated element is pointed out to me.

I gladly accompany you with my prayer. I will do it starting this evening.

I wish you well for your future, I remember you in prayer and I bless you.

Father Angelo