Two in five medical students believe doctors should be allowed to object to any procedure that conflicts with their personal beliefs, a survey has found.
The respondents believed in the right of doctors to conscientiously object and refuse to treat a patient who wanted an abortion, contraceptive services, who was drunk or high on drugs, or who wanted an intimate examination and was of the opposite sex, the survey published in the Journal of Medical Ethics found.
Around 45% of respondents said doctors should be entitled to object to any procedure for which they have a moral, cultural or religious disagreement. However, almost the same number (40%) disagreed.
Dr Sophie Strickland, of King George Hospital in Essex, who carried out the research, said: "In light of increasing demand for abortions, these results may have implications for women's access to abortion services in the future.
"The Department of Health has issued statistics showing that, although there are an increasing number of abortions taking place in the UK, fewer doctors are willing to perform them."