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Concern as medical students refuse to perform certain procedures on ethical grounds

Researchers have raised concerns over the future availability of services - such as abortion - after their study showed nearly one in five medical students would object to performing a procedure on moral or religious grounds.

The study – published in the Journal of Medical Ethics - shows the extent of conscientious objections by the next generation of doctors, with 16% saying they would refuse to carry out procedures such as contraception, abortion or treating people drunk or on drugs.

Out of over 700 medical students surveyed, 45% said they think doctors should be allowed to object to treating a patient based on their own opinions and beliefs, 40% disagreed.

When asked about 11 different procedures, 84.5% said they had no objections. One in five objections were on religious grounds; almost half were on non-religious grounds, and around one in three were a mixture of both.

Medical students were most likely to object to abortions. Students on a five year course  were more likely to raise objections compared with those on a four year course, 21% and 3% respectively.

Three out of four Muslim students (76%) said they would object to giving treatment, the largest proportion of those surveyed. Over half of Jewish and Protestant students said they would object along with 46 percent of Catholics.

Lead author Dr Sophie Strickland from King George Hospital, Essex, said: ‘In light of the increasing demand for abortions, these results may have implications for women's access to abortion services in the future.'