BackgroundRitual circumcision of infant boys is controversial in Norway, as in many other countries. The procedure became a part of Norwegian public health services in 2015. A new law opened for conscientious objection to the procedure. We have studied physicians’ refusals to perform ritual circumcision as an issue of professional ethics.
MethodQualitative interview study with 10 urologists who refused to perform ritual circumcision from six Norwegian public hospitals. Interviews were recorded and transcribed, then analysed with systematic text condensation, a qualitative analysis framework.
ResultsThe physicians are unanimous in grounding their opposition to the procedure in professional standards and norms, based on fundamental tenets of professional ethics. While there is homogeneity in the group when it comes to this reasoning, there are significant variations as to how deeply the matter touches the urologists on a personal level. About half of them connect their stance to their personal integrity, and state that performing the procedure would go against their conscience and lead to pangs of conscience.
ConclusionsIt is argued that professional moral norms sometimes might become more or less ‘integrated’ in the professional’s core moral values and moral identity. If this is the case, then the distinction between conscience-based and professional refusals to certain healthcare services cannot be drawn as sharply as it has been.
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