Ron Panzer - President, Hospice Patients Alliance
Having had five doctors in my family, having sat around the dinner tables watching some of the "all-knowing" doctors in my family argue with each other, I know that doctors are people with very different and varying points of view. They are not all in agreement on just about any subject. And they do not tend to listen very well at all to those who are not physicians, who may think differently about ethics, politics, morality, world view, religion or just about anything at all!
Doctors disagree just as much as other people, but they have one major difference: most of them believe they absolutely know better than the "common people." This attitude is well known by non-physicians and accounts for the public's accurate belief that doctors often consider themselves to be "above" others and that physicians as a group are arrogant. Physicians do consider themselves above others, in a perverted, aristocratic way, as if they belong to "The Club" and others are simply, merely ordinary, uneducated underlings.
Part of this self-proclaimed supremacy comes from their academic success in school, which qualifies them for entry into the clique. Yet, they fail to remember that there were many academically gifted students who did not become physicians, or even lawyers (another clique). The perception that doctors think of themselves as gods is often quite accurate. They don't "literally" think of themselves as "gods," but think of themselves as the earthly equivalent of gods, i.e., they believe in their superior training, superior thinking abilities, superior understanding of what is involved when patients are injured, ill or vulnerable.
Physicians believe they are superior to judge just about anything, even if they have no knowledge of the subject. Anyone who has been around physicians much knows that this is the tendency. Humility among physicians is a rare thing nowadays. And, when the "all-knowing" doctors disagree with themselves, their superior "all-knowingness" is exposed for mere arrogance!
Doctors may be the least qualified to make ethical decisions about life and death for patients! Why? Because they have been schooled in a thought process that inculcates a disdain for the opinions of others; many subscribe to a philosophy/quasi "religious" point of view which exalts human knowledge, worships at the altar of man's achievements, denies the validity of any religious explanation for existence, denies the validity of religiously based ethics, denies the existence of God, denies the concept of sanctity of life, denies the existence of anything which cannot be seen or sensed through the five human senses.
History tells us that physicians can be among the cruelest of all groups of individuals; it was doctors who ran the Nazi extermination camps during the Holocaust; it was doctors who began the euthanasia programs by experimenting in ways to put to death the mentally ill and mentally retarded.
With about 50% of physicians favoring physician-assisted suicide and 50% disapproving of physician-assisted suicide, there is absolute proof that doctors themselves are divided on what is "ethical," "moral," or justifiable practice in health care.
When physicians are the gatekeepers of who gets treatment and who is denied treatment, when physicians are rewarded to the tune of many thousands of dollars every year IF they dance to the tune of for-PROFIT HMOs, and other health insurance companies (by minimizing care and maximizing profit), they can least be trusted to do what is right for the ordinary person.
This is not to say that all physicians misuse their power. However, it is obvious that as a class, they are definitely not superior in anything except that they have training in medicine. That does not make them morally or ethically superior.
By their own admission, many physicians have admitted to killing patients, even though they don't use that language. They admit to increasing the dosages of morphine when there is no pain and the obvious consequence is death. Why? They did so when they found patients thought their lives were meaningless, when the patients were very elderly or weak. See "Questionable Deaths, Assisted Suicide: Mercy Killing (& Involuntary Euthanasia)" In other words, doctors chose to end the lives of their patients when they determined that the lives of their patients were not "worthy of living."
The reality is that physicians are human beings, but not necessarily more humane! Some are, and those are to be admired, but just having an MD after one's name does not alone make one admirable. The Nazi doctors were MDs and were despicable, some of the most horrible examples of man's capability to do evil.
No, society as a whole must be involved in deciding what is right and wrong. When decisions are made by those who routinely deny the sanctity of life, when decisions are made by those who, for the most part, no longer swear an oath to "do no harm," then mankind is endangered. When the very lives of ordinary citizens are entrusted to physicians who are increasingly rewarded for minimizing care, then mankind is endangered.
We must remember that physicians institutionally excel at hiding behind nameless committees when they choose to deny care to the vulnerable. In Nazi Germany, three member panels of at least two physicians were commonly used to order the execution of the mentally ill, and those deemed "unworthy of life."
Yet, those "unfit for life" often thought differently. The politically incorrect, those out of favor with the government can easily be victimized through physicians' decisions. In the former Soviet Union, physicians were used to "diagnose" political activists as "mentally ill" and send them off permanently to be imprisoned in psychiatric prisons.
Physicians are just as capable of tyrannizing humanity as any other group. Physicians should never be allowed to be the sole decision makers when it comes to life and death. If that is allowed, then they will literally be the "gods" of our society, an aristocratic group that has no check or balance within government: tyrants who cannot be questioned.
History is filled with proof that physicians can be among the most noble and the most evil of individuals. As a class, they should not solely be entrusted with life and death decisions. No one class of individuals should solely be entrusted with such a responsibility and power. As it has been said, "power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." (Lord Acton 1834-1902 - Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University)
A just society, a democratic society, would never entrust one class of individuals with the power to order the death of individuals without any check upon their power. As a society, we must maintain a balance and must reaffirm the sanctity of life!
- Ron Panzer
Search This Site
Read The Heart Of End-Of-Life Care, an E-book containing essays which reveal the mission of hospice and end-of-life care.
Learn about the dangers threatening the industry and the public in the 21st century.
This E-book is available by download online.
HPA is a nonprofit, charitable 501(c)(3) patient advocacy organization
All material copyright of Hospice Patients Alliance ("HPA") unless otherwise credited.