Should Your Doctor Cast Off the “Cloak of Conscience”?

By | June 22, 2017 | 1 Comments

If Congress considers legislation such as…the Conscience Protection Act a priority, then I will do all I can to make sure it comes to my desk for signature and enactment.
Donald Trump, 2016

The proposed Conscience Protection Act would ensure that health-care professionals not be punished by the government if they refuse to participate in abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, or other procedures that violate their conscience. Americans should be free to provide, find, or offer health care and health insurance that aligns with their deeply held values.

But not everyone agrees. Some time ago, the New England Journal of Medicine, the most widely quoted medical journal in America, published this statement by an M.D., J.D. ‒ a real expert:

Federal laws may make room for the rights of conscience, but health care providers ‒ and all those whose jobs affect patient care ‒ should cast off the cloak of conscience when patients’ needs demand it. [Emphasis added.]

The only “cloak” is the word needs. No one is refusing needed medical care because of conscience. The journal is talking about abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia, and similar procedures. The problem isn’t needs, it’s wants:

● The only women who need an abortion are those whose health is threatened. Many abortions are performed because of convenience, including interference with work schedules, vacation plans, and the ability to attract new boyfriends. The real need is that of babies to be born and adopted by the loving married couples who are lined up waiting for them, even if they are handicapped.

● No one needs to be helped to kill herself, or to be killed. If the problem is depression, the need is for psychotherapy and antidepressants. If the problem is disability, the need is for reassurance that we do not consider the person a useless burden. If the problem is pain, the need is for adequate pain control. If the problem is brain damage, the need is for rehabilitation. Death is not a treatment for any condition ‒ it is the admission of failure of treatment.

Terri Schiavo didn’t need to be dehydrated and starved to death over 13 days. The 41-year-old woman was severely brain damaged, and her estranged husband wanted to get rid of her so he could marry his girlfriend. She needed the care her family wanted to give her. And we wanted to watch more sitcoms and stop being troubled by seeing her on TV.

● True, a quadriplegic might need help to commit suicide. But why would he need to commit suicide if he were receiving proper care? Watch Dr. Charles Krauthammer on TV ‒ is his life meaningless? He broke his neck in a diving accident while in medical school. And what about Dr. Stephen Hawking? He has been effectively quadriplegic due to ALS for decades, yet he remains a world-famous cosmologist. My fear of disability does not empower me to kill you if you become disabled.

● No one needs to give birth to eight babies, especially when she already has six small children. The “octomom” wanted to fulfill a narcissistic desire, and the fertility doctor wanted to perform the procedure because he could. That may be the real motivation for much research on cloning of human embryos ‒ we want to see how godlike we can become, when in fact we are becoming the opposite.

When I was a medical student years ago, I read the New England Journal. It had a weekly case discussion. A patient was presented, and an expert discussed possible diagnoses. When he finished, others joined in, either backing up the discussant or offering a different diagnosis. Then the correct diagnosis was given. I learned that even experts can be mistaken.

I recall a guest lecturer who was shown a patient with a terrible-looking chest x-ray. The man was an expert in chest diseases. He diagnosed advanced lung cancer and criticized us for putting the patient through more tests. He concluded that the patient should be left to die. There was only one problem − the patient had tuberculosis, a curable disease.

Even the best physicians are fallible, so we should err on the side of diagnosing treatable diseases and not give up hope prematurely. Of course, back then the thought of “euthanizing” a patient would never have occurred to us.

But times change. Like most organizations, medicine ‒ especially academic medicine ‒ was taken over by leftists. They advocate government-controlled health care, assisted suicide, euthanasia, and abortion on demand, as well as use of fetal tissue for research, cloning, and spare parts. When the Journal advocates these programs, it takes on the aura of science. But in fact it is merely personal opinion.

After reading another article advocating assisted suicide and euthanasia, I wrote a letter to the editor, pointing out that these practices contravene the Hippocratic Oath as well as the teachings of all major religions. My letter was not published. The editor wrote that the journal published only “reasoned argument,” not an “appeal to authority.”

This attitude is appropriate for scientific articles, where one points to evidence. But it is inappropriate for articles dealing with ethical matters. The Nazi scientists who developed drugs and gasses to murder the physically and mentally handicapped were just as scientific as the British scientists who developed penicillin. But the Nazi scientists were unethical.

“Reasoned argument” was used to justify eliminating the disabled, who were “useless eaters” and a “drain on the Fatherland.” But an “appeal to authority” − the Hippocratic Oath and the Bible − condemned what the Nazis were doing. Only a fool or someone ignorant of history could deny these facts.

The editors of the New England Journal are neither fools nor ignoramuses. What’s their excuse? Is their leftist lust for “change” so strong that they risk knocking the ethical underpinnings out from under medicine? Is their elitist urge for centralized control so powerful that they are leading us over an ethical cliff?

Only one of the 141 American medical schools still administers the Hippocratic Oath. The other schools use a variety of oaths, of which only one rejects abortion, only four forbid having sex with patients, and only 25 reject euthanasia – all of which are forbidden by the Hippocratic Oath. This is called “progress.” I would use other words, but they are not printable.

The problem is that physicians, nurses, and technicians can be forced to participate in abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia, destroying human embryos for their spare parts, implanting eight embryos into a woman − or whatever. President Obama opined that scientists should be guided by “facts,” not “ideology” − that is, forget about ethical considerations.

But could this provision work in reverse as well? Could physicians also be punished for giving care when rationing of health care is enacted? If unelected, unaccountable federal bureaucrats can tell physicians what patients “need,” they can also tell physicians what patients “don’t need” − and enforce their orders.

If you think physicians’ freedom to use their best judgment for their patients is restricted by insurance companies and HMOs, try government bureaucrats. Financial pressures are bad enough; threats of punishment are even worse. Think of the Department of Motor Vehicles or Internal Revenue − not just intrusive meddlers, but heavy-handed bullies.

The article advises doctors to “cast off the cloak of conscience.” “Cloak”? Do we really want to discover that beneath the “cloak,” there might lurk a Dr. Mengele?

Mengele earned both an M.D. and a Ph.D. from the prestigious University of Heidelberg. He was an “expert.” He was a scientist guided by “facts,” not ethical considerations. He was a man who listened to “reasoned argument” and rejected “appeal to authority” such as the Hippocratic Oath or the Bible. He “cast off the cloak of conscience” ‒ really far off.

So he was ideally suited to become deputy chief physician at the Auschwitz death camp. He performed experiments on unanesthetized prisoners. He took his turn at “selection,” where physicians evaluated new prisoners to decide who was strong enough to work, and who went straight to the gas chambers and crematoria.

Don’t these “progressives” know that conscience is a precious gift from God? Don’t they know it is what distinguishes us from lower animals? If I cast it off, what am I? Someone with a medical diploma on the wall, yes, but not a truly human being.

You want doctors who “cast off the cloak of conscience”? I wish you good luck and good health. You’ll need both.

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One Comment

  • In case you are feeling too happy and secure today, and your optimism is running away with you, check this out:

    To paraphrase Pastor Niemöller: First they came for the early fetuses, but I was not an early fetus, so I didn’t speak up. Then they came for the late-term fetuses, but I wasn’t a late-term fetus, so I didn’t speak up. Then they came for the brain-damaged, but I wasn’t brain damaged, so I didn’t speak up. Now they’re coming for the newborn, but I’m not newborn, so I’m still not speaking up. But next they’ll come for me, and there will be no one left to speak up for me.

    Or to put it colloquially: Ain’t karma a bitch?

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