Guest Editorial

Neal, Mary and Fovargue, Sara and Smith, Stephen W. (2019) Guest Editorial. The New Bioethics: A Multidisciplinary Journal of Biotechnology and the Body, 25 (3). pp. 203-206. ISSN 2050-2877 (

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It is probably fair to say that academic interest in the role of conscience in healthcare (and specifically, in the phenomenon of conscientious objection (CO)) has never been more intense, as evidenced by the volume of articles (and indeed, special issues) devoted to the topic in recent years. The three of us have contributed to this burgeoning literature, writing separately and together. This special issue of The New Bioethics marks the mid-point of a project devised and co-managed by us and funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Research Networks scheme: the Accommodating Conscience Research Network (ACoRN). Our aim in developing this multidisciplinary network of academics from a range of disciplines, practitioners, and representatives of professional bodies, is to carve out intellectual space within which to begin exploring conscience/CO in healthcare from a broadly supportive perspective. Our sense, as participants in academic debates about conscience, is that although the literature contains many rich insights and fascinating discussions, some of the most interesting questions about conscience are being overshadowed by the loudest and most polarised disagreement over whether there is any legitimate role for CO in healthcare at all. This is despite the fact that it seems to us that most contributors adopt positions that are hospitable to the accommodation of CO, at least to some extent and in some circumstances.


Neal, Mary ORCID logoORCID:, Fovargue, Sara and Smith, Stephen W.;