Conceptualising conscientious objection as resistance

Benjamin Farrand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While conscientious objection in healthcare is becoming increasingly studied, the legislative implementation of the principle is often without definition, leading to the question ‘what is conscientious objection?’ As this article will demonstrate, it is useful to reconceptualise conscientious objection as ‘resistance’ to dominant discourses and understandings in society, which have been internalised and co-opted as a way of acting as a ‘safety-valve’ for individualised dissent, as well as reinforcing perceptions of freedom, choice and tolerance in liberal democratic society. This non-normative assessment of conscientious objection therefore seeks to provide a framework for understanding why certain forms of resistance may be considered conscientious and some may not, before then applying this understanding to issues such as abortion and female genital mutilation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-88
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Medical Law and Ethics
Issue number2/3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • conscientious objection
  • medicine
  • abortion
  • resistance
  • Foucault
  • networks of power
  • female genital mutilation
  • social constructivism


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