Akiko Bremar, Contributing Writer

“Learn, prepare and act” was the simple yet supplicating call to action that Dr. John Brehany of the Catholic Medical Association left for the approximately 60 students and faculty members who attended his lecture, “Conscience in Healthcare,” last Wednesday evening.

Brehany described what he sees as the dangerous decline in respect for conscience in America. According to Brehany, respect for individual conscience has declined markedly in recent decades in America, with more and more individuals and institutions being forced to go against their own beliefs, morals and values.

Brehany’s main concern was the liberty of physicians

UD dad and medical ethics expert John Brehany chronicles the decline of conscience rights for doctors during Wednesday’s lecture.

“50 years ago, no one could tell a physician what to do – which is where the saying ‘doctor’s orders’ came from,” Brehany said. Now, that is no longer the case, and both individuals and institutions are forced to perform actions and provide services to which they are morally opposed.

Though Brehany focused on the particular challenges to future doctors, he emphasized that such restrictions on doctors’ freedom point to a broader cultural shift that should concern – and may soon affect – everyone.

Many students identified with that more personal connection.

“I liked how Dr. Brehany’s lecture can apply to everyone, not only healthcare practitioners,” senior Cecilia Hu said. “He showed us how our culture has changed and no longer respects individual conscience.”

Brehany emphasized the great need for Catholics and all people of faith to stand strong behind their principles.

He noted the possibility that in the near future, those who stand up for their principles will be punished with exorbitant fines. Brehany pointed to Hobby Lobby as a case in point. Hobby Lobby CEO David Green recently sued the Federal Government over being forced to supply abortion-inducing drugs.

Brehany expressed concern that people will bow to legislators, or defend their values and be put out of business by the fines, or possibly even end up in jail.

“It looks like a terrifying future for people with any kind of principles and for the defenders of conscience in the United States,” associate English professor Dr. Bernadette Waterman Ward said. “It is really a strong call to action that we defend the rights of conscience and the rights of religious liberty because religious liberty is under attack from so many corners. I really commend the work of Dr. Brehany.”

Hu was “motivated” by the lecture “to learn more about this crisis and to face people who attack our rights.” Other students also saw Brehany’s words as essential to a world where religion is always interacting with other aspects of people’s professional lives.

“It is not very common to have bioethics lectures at the University of Dallas,” senior Justin Samorajski said. “But when we do, they are very good and very valuable. We have a lot of students in the sciences who are pre-med or pre-law and who are going to have to deal with these issues in the immediate future. It is also good for the general public to be informed about the interaction between religion and politics so that they can make educated decisions for the future.”

“I hope that we can defend the most basic goods,” Brehany said in his closing lines. “I hope that we can defend human dignity, life, conscience and religious freedom. I hope that you can all witness these goods in your careers. We need a lot of help in many different fields to set these issues right. We have to make faith a guiding force.”