Posted on September 28, 2014 at 2:56 PM
“Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” – 1 Corinthians 5:9
I attended a funeral this past week, and I spoke with a relative who is an attorney practicing patent and intellectual-property (IP) law. Since he works closely with science and technology, I mentioned Joe Gibes’s post on the “duping” of American patients seeking a medical cure in antidepressants. I went so far as to say that we might have a whole segment of medical literature that misrepresents the nature of the human body and medical science. This attorney nodded in agreement, knowingly. As long as business interests drive research and political interests sway agencies such as the FDA, the profession of medicine in the United States is vulnerable.
Many of the debates in our country indicate that a healthy dose of fair-mindedness would do us good. In fact, that is the entire of premise of ethics no matter what the field: there is a manner of practice that is good and beneficial to people and we should hold each other to that standard. If the ethical disciplines—be they medical, business, governmental, or whatever—are reduced simply to the exertion of one’s will (and accompanying fundraising) then we truly are left with something George Washington U. law professor Jonathan Turley calls “raw, muscle politics.” In turn, consumer choice becomes a pillar in medical ethics, and the house serves little for refuge but becomes a hazard.
Restoring the philanthropic underpinnings to medicine would be a big help. Universities historically have provided safe havens for such research and training, but today they too are seduced with corporate sponsors for buildings and fat TV contracts for football. And we might even want to wait to invest philanthropy until the donor has passed over the River Jordan so that Class of ’50 alum doesn’t try to funnel university developments to his cash cow company.
We might also consider forming a new medical association, which is truly a vehicle for physicians and nurses who desire to practice medicine in a particular manner. From a medical ethics standpoint, there really is no point to a medical association if it is merely a trade association for business interests or a quasi-agency that advances a particular philosophy of governance. The Hippocratic tradition began with a particular understanding of a way of practicing medicine which was beneficial to patients and reflective of principles pleasing to the Deity, first and foremost. The use of the oath then allowed those who held these views to stand together for the sake of advancing good medicine and sometimes to stand against their opponents and harmful practices. Such a medical association, whether at the county level or on a national basis, would provide medicine with an ethical standard that would restore a sense of fair-mindedness in the USA.
It’s become the American practice to go into Washington or Austin or Kandahar or Fallujah with a suitcase full of cash to “get things done.” This strategy reveals the superficial nature of our policies: we cannot win support with argument; greenbacks are the only things that win people over to our side.
 Postscript: Under philanthropy, it might be appropriate to mention church-sponsored hospitals. However, the Christian exodus from healthcare is almost complete. Even this summer, the most venerable hospital in Waco, Texas, dropped “Baptist” from its name.