Letters exchanged between
The Guild of Catholic Doctors,
Muslim Doctors and Dentists Association,
The Christian Medical Fellowship
The Chief Medical Officer

29th May 1996

Sir Kenneth Calman. C.M.O.
Department of Health Richmond House
79 Whitehall,


Dear Sir Kenneth

We write to seek formal clarification that the Department of Health Guidelines on duties concerning the performance of an abortion whilst in training will apply to the new specialist registrar grade.

The guidelines were clear in that there could be no requirement upon any doctors in training to participate in the performance of an abortion. We consider this to be a very important matter, not only for the profession, but also for the public.

A number of women are beginning to request that the management of their pregnancy is undertaken by doctors not involved in abortions. In spite of the House of Commons Social Services Select Committee Report of 1989-90 on the working of the Conscience Clause of the 1967 Act, it remains difficult for doctors who do not perform abortions to be appointed to permanent posts in Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

It has even come to our attention that advice has been given to a candidate for the MRCOG examination to the effect that they need to have performed abortions. We know this to be mistaken but nevertheless, it is a disincentive. We are also aware that there are many unfilled consultant posts in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at present.

We hold that the profession must be open to all suitably qualified persons whatsoever their moral tradition, and that as such it would be in the best position to meet the needs of a plural society.

Yours sincerely

Signed by:
Dr.A.P.Cole, Master Guild of Catholic Doctors
Dr.J.Qureshi, Founder President, Muslim Doctors and Dentists Association.
Dr.M.Hodson, Chairman, Christian Medical Fellowship.

Reply recieved from Chief Medical Officer:

Our Ref. PO Jkr 96/184

To Dr A P Cole and others.


21 June 1996

Dear Dr Cole,

Thank you for your letter, received on 29 May, regarding the Abortion Act 1967 and the reforms to specialist medical training.

As you will know, Section 4 of the Act provides that, except where the treatment is necessary to save the life of or prevent grave permanent injury to the pregnant woman, no person shall be under any duty to participate in any treatment authorised by the Act to which he or she has a conscientious objection. The provisions in Section 4 of the Act will, of course, apply to doctors in the new Specialist Registrar grade.

If medical staff have strong ethical or moral objections to participating in treatment for termination of pregnancy, we consider it right that they should not be obliged to participate in such procedures. Nor should conscientious objection be detrimental to their career and appointments.


SIR KENNETH CALMAN Chief Medical Officer