An expert in medical and ethical issues is warning that contemporary health care industry standards are abandoning the original concept of the Hippocratic oath – to do no harm – and instead advocating for a “right to die.”
A translation from Greek of the original oath includes not those exact words, but the idea, with the statement, “I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing. Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course.”
However, Dr. Jeffrey Hall Dobken, in the winter issue of the “Journal of the American Physicians and Surgeons,” documents the move toward physician-assisted suicide, even physician-assisted death.
“The invention of a ‘right to die,’ especially as it comes to embrace a right to ‘aid-in-dying,’ must translate into a legislative obligation on the part of others (namely physicians) to kill or help kill,” he warned.
“Apart from the moral and coercive personal offense that such a duty requires, it is difficult to imagine and configure a limited statute permitting homicide by a privileged few and exercised in the name of society,” he wrote.
Dobken holds a dual appointment as adjunct assistant professor, departments of Epidemiology & Community Health and Environmental Sciences, at New York Medical College, and is a practicing allergist with a certificate in bioethics from the Center for the Study of Society & Medicine at Columbia.
The “right” to die, of course, isn’t exactly new. It arose in conjunction with the stunning claim by a man who was governor of the state of Colorado decades ago.
Richard D. Lamm, at the time, faced demands for his resignation after he said seriously ill elderly people not only had a right to due, but should do it.
Lamm, whose advocacy for death also prompted him to write and lobby for a state abortion law six years before Roe v. Wade was decided at the Supreme Court, had said the ill elderly “have a duty to die and get out of the way.”
In the AAPS journal, Dobken addressed the concept of limited medical resources and vast needs.
“Complex metrics are developed to determine, in an ‘ethical manner,’ how decision-makers must set priorities among competing opportunities,” the AAPS said. But, “The question bioethicists fail to ask is the reason for scarcity and how to remedy it. Instead, scarcity is assumed to be inevitable. Its existence is used as ‘a device to advance a progressive agenda, to enhance the relevance of the bioethics community as moral guardians of the public welfare, and to redistribute goods and services for economic and political purposes.'”
His warning is that, “There is simply no way to confine the practice to those knowingly and freely requesting death. The clear majority of candidates for assisted death are, and increasingly will be, incapable of choosing and effecting such a course of action for themselves.
“No one with an expensive or troublesome infirmity will be safe from the pressure to have his ‘right to die’ exercised. The medical profession’s devotion to healing, to doing no harm – its ethical center – has been sullied and irreparable damaged, and it strustworthiness ethically compromised by this bioethically deisgned breath.”
He continued, “There is no recognizable ‘right to die,’ and there is no duty to die. Modern medicine can design better methods of caring for the dying, without complicated governmental intervention. The need for access to adequate hospice care – to comfort care – without the need for political posturing, a rights argument, a faux ethic, and a legislative and regulatory mandate based on economic falsehoods, cannot be addressed without the expertise of the medical community.”
He said, “There is no need to assert a right to die or to create a lifeboat ethic, no need to triage and jettison the ‘unworthy’ as selected by non-medically trained third parties who bear no direct relationship to the patient. Bioethicists play such a role yet deny responsibility for the outcome for their interventionist advisory function.
“In rejecting traditional Hippocratic ethics on socio-cultural-economic grounds, bioethics has abandoned the fundamental medical ethical commitment to the person in need,” he said.