We can decide it for you wholesale

Katholiek Nieuwsblad reports that the Council of Europe is preparing to establish regulations for medical doctors who refuse a treatment based on moral objections. The proposed bill says that there must be a balance between the right of personal moral objections and the patient’s right of treatment. It continues to say that, under certain circumstances, doctors must set aside their objections.

The question here is not so much whether or not a doctor should be allowed to have moral objections to perform, say, and abortion or euthanasia. Well, it is, but it goes further than that.

Ingrid Airam wonders who should make the medical decisions: the doctors who studied and trained for years, or the bureaucrats who decide what medication they can proscribe? She raised the question in regards to the forms of medication covered by insurance companies, but I also think it is a valid concern here.

A moral objection is not a simple decision not to do something. The doctor who has one will have a good reason for it. When you remove the right to make expert decisions, the doctor becomes a tool wielded by people and institutions who have considerably less expertise, let alone hands-on experience.

In a life-or-death situations (or even a less serious case) I would sooner trust the knowledge of the person directly treating me than the bureaucrats and politicians who say what he or she can and can not do.

I’m not proposing doctors should be loose canons who can do whatever they please. But I do think it is important that, when it comes to medical and ethical decisions, the experience of the people in the field is the first deciding factor.


6 thoughts on “We can decide it for you wholesale”

  1. I agree with the notion that outside bureacrats shouldn’t necessarily have a say in matters of medical treatment and such. However, I also hesitate to say that moral objections are at all times valid. We all have moral values, but not all of us have had equal training in understanding the what and how. The same hesitation that maks me believe that outside bureacrats, ecause of lack of knowledge, should not interfere with trained medical professionals, makes me say that these same medical professionals are equally fallible. Many doctors, surgeons and what not disagree with one another on the same medical case, simply based on different moral opinions.

    Rather, I would see the community of licensed medial practitioners empowered to create a system of moral guidelines themselves, like a modern-day Hippocratic Oath, more detailed, strict but open enough for each physician to operate in without major moral objections. Such a system of guidelines wold come from the experts themselves, and should be empowered by government to function as an official legal directive.

    1. Medical professionals are certainly fallible. But they do generally know what they are objecting to, I think. In difficult cases such as abortion and euthanasia, but also when it comes to plastic surgery, they’ll weigh the physical objections as well as the moral ones, I would hope.

      At the very least, they would be in a better position to do so than, say, the Council of Europe.

      1. In the case of such ethical and moral questions…don’t rely too much on the medical professionals. At least, in my experience, 9 out of 10 of the medical students (and so the future doctors) simply think that such actions are normal, and they are surprised to find that one can also think otherwise.

      2. Oh, I understand that it probably isn’t as positive as I describe it above. But I still maintain that medical professionals know more about their job that politicians do 🙂

  2. One thing to remember as well: abortion and euthanasia are not normale medical treatments (normaal medisch handelen), and so a doctor can never be forced to do something like that if he/she doesn’t want to.

    No, they’de rather put me in jail than that I’d approve of an action I can’t live with morally. I still have to answer to God one day, and there is no excuse when I approved of letting one of his children killed.

  3. @Ingrid: You’re quite right, I forgot about that. In essence, abortion and euthenasia are not too dissimilar to, say, plastic surgery. In those cases, a medical prectitioner also has to use their own judgement on whether a patient really needs such surgery or not. Difference being, ofcourse, that in those cases, you don’t directly deal with life or death, ‘just’ with quality of life. But this is indeed the struggle any physicisn deals with: they are partly specialized instruments, there to do a job, but they are also human beings, with a mind of their own. Where should the line be drawn? These guidelines I metioned would allow for a fallback position, where a surgeon can rely on, without having to fight ‘the system’ on their own.

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