With A Loud Ethics Voice:"Physicians Are Always Physicians" (2)
I wrote about this issue yesterday to a bioethics listserv of which I am a subscriber. One of the ethicists on the listserv wrote back
"So, the challenge I post to this group is to argue
'against' the notion that the physicians who participate in interrogations
are not physicians
per se, but rather should be construed as hostile interrogators (or
enemy combatants) to whom the standards duties of medical
professionalism (e.g., confidentiality, beneficence, nonmalfeasance,
etc.) do not apply" That's the point I am and I think the NEJM authors are
making. Those physicians in the military who are participating in this manner
are violating their duties of medical professionalism since they are still
I have never heard that it was the duty of a physician to go into
poverty but I understood it was the duty of a physician to maintain the moral
integrety, whether treating patients or not, which is set by his/her profession.
And physicians are penalized, as an example, by having their licenses revoked
for personal or legal misbehavior even when not directly related to the medical
care of a patient.
I can't believe that there is lack of consensus amongst those in the
profession of medicine or those on the sidelines such as the ethicists or the
general public that it is acceptible for physicians to maintain a Jekyl and Hyde
posture depending on who is requesting their services.
The responsibilities of America in Iraq will continue on.. the "war" on
terrorism will continue on.. there will still be persons confined in
Guantanamo Bay indefinitely and unless the government's and military mindset regarding
physicians is changed, there will always continue the misuse of physicians. I
have always felt that if society wants to have euthanasia, if society needs
to have a death warrent signed or execution completed, if society needs
investigation of the mental state of a criminal, if society needs special assistance
in military interrogation, let society select, train and give power to
technicians for each of the needs but let the physicians behave and do what they have
been doing all these many centuries.
We should all accept the decision of what society-- people, including
us, want of our doctors. We should actively encourage maintaining the
professional ethics and discourage those who would "use" doctors for their own
important but non-humanitarian objectives. I think that professional ethics and medical organizations not just mumble medical ethics but proceed promptly with a loud
ethics voice (through newspapers, TV, radio, communication to
government,legislatures and state medical boards) that physicians are always physicians and that
any other definition is morally unacceptable. And I think the time to start is
Of course, what may have happened in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay is being
investigated but that should not deter us all from simply reasserting the
ethical definition of a physician. ..Maurice.