Follow The Science? Trust Physicians? Maybe, Maybe Not

By | July 30, 2021 | 0 Comments

When I say physician, what picture comes to mind? A middle-aged or older man or woman, probably in a white coat, caring for the sick, relieving pain, often an independent sort acting in the patient’s best interest? I hope so. That’s what I tried to be. But that image, sadly, is not entirely accurate. Sometimes it isn’t accurate at all.

Question: Of all professions in Germany, which had the highest percent of Nazi Party members:

  1. Army officers
  2. Lawyers
  3. Engineers
  4. Machinists
  5. Physicians

Answer: 5.

An equally accurate image of a physician is a regimented follower of orders, unwilling or actually frightened to stand out, respectful of authority – regardless of whether or not that authority deserves respect. Long years of training in a hierarchy tends to produce compliant followers of orders.

Recall that when Hitler took power, he replaced the Hippocratic Oath for medical graduates with an oath to the health of the people – not individual patients, but the people as a whole. American medical graduates also no longer take the Hippocratic Oath, but a variety of oaths, some of which the graduates make up themselves. Instead of following a 2400-year-old tradition, they swear to follow their own ideas. How hard can that be?

So instead of old Doc Saunders, who took care of your family for decades, just be aware that this is also the image of a physician. Josef Mengele, MD, PhD, was camp physician at Auschwitz. He performed experiments on unanesthetized prisoners. So he probably would have no problem complying with orders to administer an unapproved medication to persons unwilling to get it, who may not need it, and without their informed consent. As he would say, Befehl ist Befehl, orders are orders.

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