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“The Culture of Death: The Age of ‘Do Harm’ Medicine”

by | May 20, 2016

By Dave Andrusko

culture-of-death-the-age-of-do-harm-medicine-by-wesley-smith-1594038562On Wednesday we took a first look at the updated edition of Wesley J. Smith’s, “The Culture of Death: The Age of ‘Do Harm’ Medicine.” (The book is available everywhere but at the end of this post, I will offer specific locations.)

To close out the week, I’d like to take a closer look at what Wesley means by “Do Harm Medicine” and the ramifications for the vulnerable and the powerless.

Wesley is alluding to the assault on the most famous take-away from the Hippocratic Oath: Physicians are instructed, “First do no harm.” (He aptly describes various inversions and subversions of the Oath as “Euthanizing Hippocrates.”)

The Bioethics Establishment, comparatively freshly-minted and ensconced in the best known think tanks, famous law schools, and as editors of elite medical journals, would demur, even recoil. They are not doing harm when they deprive “non-persons” (also known as “idiots,” the “subpersonal,” and those who do not lead “meaningful lives,” to name just three slurs) of food and water.

In fact, they would tell you they are doing just the opposite. To refrain from ending their existence (“killing” is too crass a word for these philosopher kings) is to do them harm.

Most bioethicists will tell you the victim is better off dead (those with various degrees of cognitive injuries) or never really existed at all (the unborn and the newborn) because they lack the necessary qualities deemed by bioethicist to qualify as a “person.”

The late Ronald Dworkin was a hugely influential law professor and author. Wesley quotes and paraphrases from Dworkin’s “Life’s Dominion” to illustrate crucial insights into the Bioethical Establishment.

Some of the most radical bioethicists–Peter Singer and the late Joseph Fletcher, come to mind–make no pretense. They have formulas and to-do lists that consciously create a hierarchy of human life. You are in, if you possess certain qualities, and you culled from the herd, if you don’t.

Theirs is a cold-blooded utilitarianism, intended, Wesley writes, “to create invidious divisions among people based on whether they measured up to his [Fletcher’s] humanhood criteria.”

Dworkin belongs to a different strain. These are the deep thinkers who treat words like vessels. They drain words of their old content, pour in the new mixture, and pretend you and they are talking about the same things.

So in “Life’s Dominion” Dworkin argued (Wesley writes), “That killing the weak and helpless can actually be a method of upholding the inherent value of human life.”

In Dworkin’s own words, “Our sharp divisions [over abortion and euthanasia] signal the complexity of the value and markedly different ways that different cultures, different groups, and different people, equally committed to it [the sanctity of life], interpret its meaning.”

Such jaw-dropping statements are the coin of the bioethics’ realm.

Next week we will talk about the alternative to instrumentalism and the systematic dismantling of “traditional medical ethics,” the result of which is to “endanger weak and vulnerable patients.”

You can purchase “The Culture of Death” (as they say) wherever books are sold. If a store doesn’t carry, it can be special ordered. It’s in stock at Amazon and Barnes and Noble online and is available in Kindle, Nook, Applebooks, etc.

Categories: Bioethics