New Zealand Health Professionals Alliance (NZHPA) is an incorporated society that advocates for Freedom of Conscience in Health Care.
NZHPA is committed to the practice of ethical health care and the right to conscientious objection. Conscientious objection is the appeal to conscience to refuse to perform acts that threaten the person’s sense of moral integrity. Doctors, nurses and other health professionals, as well as patients, may appeal to conscience in refusing to perform a particular action or to undergo a specific treatment.
NZHPA’s purposes are:
- To provide support to members of the health profession to protect their ethical beliefs, their rights under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and their rights of conscientious objection under the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977 and the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003
- To maintain and improve the legal, social and medical safeguards for protecting and preserving human life from its beginning until its natural end
- To inform and educate the public on the importance of legal and other safeguards to protect human life
- To provide support and information to health professionals about medico-legal and ethical issues
- To uphold and promote the intrinsic value of human life
- To engage with Government Departments, other organisations, and individuals to promote the purposes of NZHPA
- To do anything necessary or helpful to the above purpose
NZHPA exists to:
- support health professionals who work in areas of health care where conscience issues can arise eg referrals for termination of pregnancy
- encourage health professionals to be aware of their lawful rights to conscientious objection
- educate health professionals and their professional associations of the imperative to protect freedom of conscience in health care in accordance with its purposes
- provide a voice for health professionals to advise Parliament and its Ministries when health care regulations infringe freedom of conscience provisions in health care
Who can join?
Any health professional committed to the purposes of NZHPA can join the Alliance.
We welcome health professionals of any or no religious persuasion and every ethnicity.
Health professionals who work in private hospitals, aged care facilities, public hospitals and general practice, or who are trainee and retired health professionals can join NZHPA. For example:
- nurses & midwives
- students of nursing, medicine & midwifery
- laboratory technologists
- hospital chaplains
- anaesthetic technicians
- radiation therapists
The New Zealand Health Professionals Alliance Incorporated, Te Hononga Mātanga Hauora o Aotearoa was formed in 2009. It is also known as NZHPA.
A key reason for its formation was to preserve the health practitioner’s right to conscientious objection. This was in particular regard to the area of reproductive health service provision.
In 2009, the Medical Council of New Zealand circulated a draft statement called Beliefs and Medical Practice. NZHPA applied to the High Court for a Judicial Review of the draft statement as it considered that aspects of the draft statement if published, would be unlawful. It argued that obligations would be imposed on health practitioners in regard to abortion referrals which contravened S174 of the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003.
S174 of the HPCA Act 2003 outlines the duties of the health practitioner in respect of reproductive health service provision where the health practitioner objects on the ground of conscience to providing the service.
The outcome of the Judicial Review was that Justice MacKenzie found in favour of the New Zealand Health Professionals Alliance. He declared that the maximum obligation on a health practitioner who objects on the ground of conscience to providing an abortion referral is that they must inform the patient that he or she can obtain the service from another health practitioner or a family planning clinic. Justice MacKenzie issued his judgement in the High Court in Wellington in December 2010. HALLAGAN And Anor V MEDICAL COUNCIL OF NZ HC WN CIV-2010-485-222 [2 December 2010]
The Medical Council of New Zealand withdrew its appeal against the judgement.
It also decided not to publish the statement on Beliefs and Medical Practice. NZHPA was pleased with this outcome and it was vindicated in taking its stand.
NZHPA is steadfast in its conviction that health professionals must not be compelled to do things that they believe to be ethically wrong, clinically inappropriate or against a patient’s best interests. The right to conscientious objection applies to any area of health care where a health professional is asked to participate in an activity that he or she believes is unethical.
NZHPA will remain alert to ensure that health practitioners can practice with due regard given to their lawful rights.