What is Medical Ethics?
Healers have been sworn to abide by a set of high moral values throughout history due to their trusted position and power over vulnerable people. Our first copies of the Hippocratic Oath from 275AD, state one guiding principle we can all still recognize today “I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm” usually paraphrased as
‘Do No Harm.’
The four pillars of modern medical ethics that are generally recognized now, include-
Beneficence- the healthcare provider should choose treatment that benefits the patient.
Non-maleficence- the treatment offered should not cause significant harm to the patient on balance, this includes infringement on privacy, dignity and human rights.
Autonomy- the patient should be free to choose their medical treatment, free from coercion or threat. This also means the patient should be informed and fully understand the risks and benefits of any treatment offered.
Justice- fair and just access to medical care, and medical care that on balance is fair to both society and the individual. This includes freedom from discrimination and upholding of human rights.
What happens when medical ethics fail?
Due to the lack of human integrity acted out repeatedly throughout history, failures in medical ethics have been consistent resulting in negligence, discrimination, human rights violations, death and genocide. Individuals fail to abide by medical ethics, resulting in inexcusable injury and death of patients but when a society fails to implement and understand medical ethics the results are far more horrifying on a mass scale.
Nazi Germany is one of the most historically relevant events to medical ethics and whilst some declare that referring to it in the context of the current environment is ‘insensitive’ or ‘offensive’,
those of us who see the early similarities use history as a dire warning to tread carefully. After all, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. German society was not especially evil, the people were not exceptionally obedient, their medical personnel became healers for the same reasons our current medical personnel do… they were JUST LIKE US. So where did it all go wrong?
‘The Greater Good.’
Some of the worst crimes that occurred under Nazi rule were medical ‘experimentation’ on coerced (political prisoners were often offered but never given freedom for their ‘contribution’ to ‘experiments’) and non-consenting individuals. During the later Nuremberg trials, many excuses were used as moral justification one repeated throughout the trials was that ‘It was for the greater good of society.’ It was believed that horrifying tortures masquerading as ‘experimentation’ were justified. Sacrificing the individual rights of a small group of people to advantage the rest of their nation was considered acceptable especially when that group were not ‘like us’.
German society allowed segregation of one ‘offending group’ resulting in the eventual mass removal, starvation and genocide of that group. These groups included the Jewish population, homosexuals, the disabled, people with mental illness and political dissenters. How did segregation occur? First, with propaganda, the media and society demonised the undesirable group and sanctified the obedient and ‘loyal’ people. Next was segregation, special laws were made and social pressure encouraged to exclude the unwanted group. In 1933 Jewish businesses were boycotted and disincentivised. Jewish people were barred from national service, civil service and barred from the legal profession. Medical reimbursement by the state was no longer available when consulting Jewish doctors. Soon after Jewish children were excluded from German schools.
This process of ‘othering’ affected the medical profession in Germany profoundly. The people that eventually endured ‘selection’ were experimented upon, starved, used as slave labour and killed on mass were not ‘really’ people, they were not ‘like us’.
Why is this relevant now?
The current public health policies playing out throughout Australia are a drastic overstep of medical ethics. Those who have chosen to not receive the injection are being excluded from society. Step by step the Australian states and territory have made it impossible for the uninjected to engage in meaningful work, to provide for themselves and their families, exclude them from travel and public spaces.
These public health policies overarchingly ignore the concepts of modern medical ethics
Beneficence– The injections offered are of benefit to the individual only so much as they are at risk of serious harm or death from Covid-19 Virus. Where the vast majority of individuals are unlikely to become seriously unwell the elderly or chronically unwell may benefit from the treatment. Disappointingly, the ‘vaccination’ has not been found to effectively reduce transmission nor viral load and therefore is ineffective as a public health measure.
Non-Maleificence– The injections can and do cause harm, the risk of adverse health events to the individual exists. And the risk may be higher in populations less likely to suffer severe complications from the virus itself especially children.
Autonomy– Despite the increasing data that the vaccines have limited benefit, can cause harm and are under ongoing safety and effectiveness data collection (only having been provisionally approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for emergency use, the pressure to have the injections including intimidation, use of societal guilt and shame, and outright discrimination excluding the uninjected from social life and their chosen careers is ongoing and overwhelming. This coercion is completely contrary to the concept of bodily autonomy and the right of the person to a fully informed choice in treatment.
Justice– Reducing the access of uninjected people to healthcare on any level is unjust. Removing their right to non-discrimination and access to the public space is a clear violation of their humanity. Stripping healthy humans of their right to refuse new, not fully tested, not fully approved medication that all parties acknowledge hold a risk to the health of the person and still feed their families is unjust and unwarranted from a health perspective. This discrimination, isolation and segregation of healthy, productive groups of humans is not healthy in any way.
And all this is the name of “the greater good” and all because those who refuse have been grouped as the “other”.
Tread carefully. You may believe what happened in Nazi Germany happened due to the insanity, incompetence and general lack of ethics of the time. In truth, the doctors, nurses and public health officials tried in Nuremberg were neither mad nor incompetent and worse, they believed what they did was for the “greater good”. They believed they were morally right to kill, torture and disable the undesirables for the betterment of science and society. They were just “doing what they were told”, just “doing the right thing”, they trusted the authorities.
Tread carefully. Individual liberty and autonomy are vitally important to societal good. And allowing the “othering” of any group, allows atrocities to happen in the name of “the greater good.”