By Wesley J. Smith
Bioethics discourse aims to change the practice of medicine and the thrust of public policy — usually not for the better. As I have been noting, the field increasingly targets the right of doctors to refuse to perform an abortion, euthanize patients, or perform other procedures or issue prescriptions that violate their religious beliefs.
Recently I discussed a “consensus statement” on this issue in Practical Ethics, published by Oxford. Now, two internationally influential bioethicists — Jualian Savulescu and Udo Schuklenk — join forces to advocate that society legally coerce doctors to kill.
First, they deconstruct medical professionalism itself by reducing the practice of medicine to the status of mere technocratic order-taking. From “Doctors Have No Right to Refuse Medical Assistance in Dying, Abortion or Contraception“:
It is clear that the scope of professional practice is ultimately determined by society, and that it is bound to evolve over time. That is true not only for the question of what kinds of services must be provided, it is also true for conscientious objection itself…
Note that the bioethicists state that a service “must be provided.” They use contraception as their primary example, but as the title demonstrates, they don’t differentiate between preventing new life from being conceived and active life-taking actions in the medical context:
If a service a doctor is requested to perform is a medical practice, is legal, consistent with distributive justice, requested by the patient or their appointed surrogate, and is plausibly in their interests, the doctor must ensure the patient has access to it. It is then irrelevant how defensible the doctors own moral take on the patient’s actions is.
Please understand that the bioethicists advocate elevating life-taking practices (where legal) such as euthanasia from what I call “mere legality,” meaning it can be done if a doctor is willing, into a positive right — meaning the doctor must do it. Hence, since the patient has a right to be killed, society and the medical profession have the duty to coerce all doctors into participating in a medical culture of death.
Ironically, the bioethicists actually concede that such actions are not really practicing medicine, properly understood:
[T]here is no reason why only doctors could competently provide, for example, contraception, abortion, or assisted dying services.
Would anyone assert that a non-doctor should be able to diagnose cancer or perform an appendectomy? This is a Jack Kevorkian meme. He wanted what he called “lay executioners” to operate out of euthanasia clinics. In California, to make sure no woman is ever delayed from having her fetus killed, certified nurse practitioners can already perform terminations.
The ultimate goal is to keep all pro-life, Hippocratic Oath-respecting, orthodox Catholic or otherwise traditionally religious believers out of the practices of medicine (and, I would add, nursing too):
If you don’t believe contraception or sterilisation [or abortion and euthanasia] are part of the modern practice of medicine, don’t become a GP…
Even if there were a strong calling to medicine or to a particular field within medicine, people are still free to decline the call and do something else with their lives. If they were not free to make that choice, due to the strength of the call, it is questionable that their decision to join the medical profession was truly an autonomous choice in the first place.
This is a proposed tyranny. If these bioethicists’ views prevail, in order to become an MD, you will have to be willing to kill. That would be the end of medicine as a true profession. For anyone interested in my views about how a proper medical conscience protection law could be framed,
Editor’s note. This appeared on Wesley’s great blog.