Nurses' attitudes toward, perceptions of, and experiences with conscientious objection

Karabulut S. D., GÜL Ş., KELEŞ Ş., GÖÇMEN BAYKARA Z., Yalim N. Y.

NURSING ETHICS, vol.29, no.7-8, pp.1615-1633, 2022 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 29 Issue: 7-8
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1177/09697330221085771
  • Journal Name: NURSING ETHICS
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, ASSIA, Abstracts in Social Gerontology, CINAHL, EBSCO Legal Collection, EBSCO Legal Source, EMBASE, MEDLINE, Philosopher's Index, Psycinfo, Public Affairs Index, DIALNET
  • Page Numbers: pp.1615-1633
  • Keywords: Conscientious objection, ethics, nursing, nursing practice, professional values, NURSING STAFF, STRESS, CARE, BURNOUT
  • Karadeniz Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Background Conscientious objection is a person's refusal to fulfill a legal duty due to their ethical values, religious beliefs, or ideological affiliations. In nursing, it refers to a nurse's refusal to perform an action or participate in a particular situation based on their conscience. Conscientious objection has become a highly contested topic in recent years. Research objectives This study had four objectives: (1) eliciting information on how Turkish nurses perceive conscientious objection, (2) revealing whether their moral beliefs affect the care they provide, (3) determining their experiences with conscientious objection, and (4) identifying existing or potential issues of conscientious objection. Research design This qualitative study collected data through semi-structured interviews. The data were analyzed using thematic content analysis. Participants The sample consisted of 21 nurses. Ethical considerations The study was approved by an ethics committee. Confidentiality and anonymity were guaranteed. Participation was voluntary. Findings The analysis revealed four themes: (1) universal values of nursing (professional values), (2) experiences with conscientious objection (refusing to provide care/not providing care), (3) possible effects of conscientious objection (positive and negative), and (4) scope of conscientious objection (grounded and groundless). Conclusion Participants did not want to provide care due to (1) patient characteristics or (2) their own religious and moral beliefs. Participants stated that conscientious objection should be limited in the case of moral dilemmas and accepted only if the healthcare team agreed on it. Further research is warranted to define conscientious objection and determine its possible effects, feasibility, and scope in Turkey.