Monday, January 30, 2006

Healthy Choices

I read this article in today's Washington Post about various legal proposals that would allow doctors, nurses and pharmacists the right to refuse treatment (abortions, birth control, stem cell research, euthansia) that causes the moral consternation.

It took me half a second not to have a problem with this. While I guess I could be considered socially liberal, I am also principled. I am a relativist. My socially liberal view is rooted in libertarianism. I think people are morally empowered to make their own choices however wrong I might think they are. It can sometimes lead to odd results (like being pro-choice, but anti-abortion).

If I am a relativist, then who am I to get into the choices physicians, nurses and pharmacists make in how they will treat people. Physicians make treatment choices all the time based on corporate pressures and economic pressures. If we substitute moral for economic concerns, how much worse are we as a society? It is a value judgment that makes one thing acceptable and another not acceptable. Value judgments are the least, well, valuable judgments we can make.

In any event, the whole medical world should be opened up to choices. Too often, doctors self-righteously and arrogantly prescribe plans of treatment that are borne out of their arrogance, not a dialogue with patients. Just as physicians might want to be empowered to treat on moral grounds, so too should patients have a say in their treatment by eliminating the information disequilibrium between them and doctors.

If medicine should be a moral dialogue, shouldn't the patient getting drug company A's drug know that drug company A paid for their doctor's golf trip last spring? Or that the same doctor won't prescribe the morning after pill, but is shtumping drug company A's local rep? I am just saying...


Blogger Jenn said...

Okay, I get that, mostly. And, mostly, that should be okay - a patient may have time and resources to find another, like-minded, dr.

Where it does become much more problematic is in those more rural areas where access to services is severly limited - should the one doctor who is in the ER or walk-in clinic on the night a girl goes in for her time-dependant emergency contraceptives choose not to give them to her.

Having said all that: were I to refuse to perform my job, even on moral grounds, I think it would not be too long before I found myself jobless.

11:21 PM  
Blogger Joseph K said...

Great points. I realize that I do have the benefit of convenience when it comes to bloviating on principle.

7:59 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

damn it. you made me look up "bloviating". (isn't that what blogs are for??)

now that I've looked it up, I'm going to have to use it at work tomorrow and then, depending on who miscontrues what, I may really be out of a job... :D

11:31 PM  

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