As I’ve said many times before, I tend to avoid philosophical rambles here at No More Hornets. I’m not interested in long, pointless discussions that were much more interesting 2400 years ago when Socrates was stopping strangers in the street and asking them annoying questions. Issues of ethics, in particular, usually bore the shit out of me. In my opinion, the whole universe of ethics boils down to the Jewish version of the Golden Rule, which says, essentially:
Don’t do to anybody else what you wouldn’t want anybody else to do to you.In more biblical language:
Fuck not thy neighbor royally, if thou wouldst not be fucked in kingly fashion thyself.But today, I’m going to begin an examination of an ethical issue, mainly by posing a question and suggesting some alternatives. I hope my readers will jump in with comments and we can get a real dialogue going.
So here’s what got me started on this topic.
This evening my wife opens up our local rag, and she notices a front-page story about the mama-papa medical practice she goes to. The headline is: Doctors won’t offer ‘the pill’.
It seems that both husband and wife, described as “two area Catholic doctors” — uh-oh! — have decided that there’s alarming medical evidence supporting their view that swallowable birth-control is bad, bad, bad for women. The ironclad proof supporting their opinion has, unfortunately, been swept under the carpet. In a sneaky disregard for scientific data, our overly permissive society has insisted for years that everybody should be free to have sex willy-nilly with one another, regardless of gender, age, or species.
God works in mysterious ways, and one of those mysteries is why the story of the two doctors made the paper today. They claim to have sent out a letter to their patients way back in October. My wife — one of their patients, as I’ve mentioned — never received it. Perhaps that was because the doctors decided she was well past her child-bearing years and wouldn’t be needing pharmaceutical assistance to keep from getting pregnant. Or maybe they just fucking lied to the newspaper. It's possible that they informed only those patients who actually asked for a prescription. “Oh, sorry, but we think that’s really bad for you, and so does Pope Benedict, and so does Jesus! Do you need any Xanax or anything?”
Anyway, the alleged letter contained some mumbo-jumbo about research that shows how using hormones to prevent pregnancy can lead to a whole world of ills: cervical and breast cancer, deep vein thrombosis, strokes, heart problems, everything but an enlarged prostate. In other words: God is waiting to fuck up your whoring bodies, ladies!
The note failed to mention stigmata, hallucinations, or epileptic seizures on the road to Damascus. Apparently, pill-takers, as opposed to devout Catholics, are safe from those particular diseases.
Now, it so happens that most of the country’s gynecologists dismiss the medical evidence offered up by the Crusading Doctor Duo. That’s probably because most of the country’s gynecologists did not attend the recent conference of the Catholic Medical Association, nor did they feel themselves “convicted spiritually” to stop prescribing birth control.
(As an amusing side note, the news article contains the not-so-startling information that Mrs. Doctor is about to pop her fifth child. As soon as she does, she and her husband would like to begin proselytizing for “natural family planning.” That method has clearly been hugely successful in their household.)
Is the pill risk-free? Of course not; what drug is? But the medical evidence, standing by itself, is certainly not sufficient to warrant a refusal to prescribe birth-control to patients. The two Papal Physicians have clearly allowed their scientific judgments to be swayed by religious, not medical, concerns.
Which brings me to the ethical issue that I’d like to throw open for discussion.
The way I see it, one can view a doctor’s responsibility in five ways:
- A doctor has a responsibility to do what a consensus of well-informed medical professionals, based on the best scientific data, would think is right for the patient.
- A doctor has a responsibility to do what he believes is right, regardless of the patient.
- A doctor has a responsibility to give his patient the best advice he can. But then he should follow his patient’s wishes, whatever they are, as long as they’re not illegal.
- A doctor has a responsiblity to think of the greater good, even if it means acting against a particular patient’s best interests.
- A doctor has no more responsibility than any other person who performs a service. He ought to be able to pick and choose the specific jobs he does.
What do you guys think?