“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within...”
Romans 12:2

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Hilary's Desk

Science friction and situational ethics

Hilary Butler - Sunday, February 19, 2012

Back in 2010, the New York Times Dr, Abigail Zugar, did a book review of a book called "White Coat, Black Hat" by Dr Carl Elliott, which anyone with any sense, should read.  Dr Elliot details the murky world of the medical system. The medical system is supposedly kept "murk" clean, by a variety of different "ethics" boards or committees elected on the assumption that their "wisdom" will always be correct.  Medical schools have medical ethics departments, which also keep an eye on the curriculum.  But are "medical ethicists", as a group, worth trusting?  Like any barrel of apples, there are good ones, and bad ones.

First, how do you define "ethics".  Is there one absolute "international" standard, or is "ethics" dependant upon who you talk to, or what situation you are in (situational ethics)?  Why are some things "ethical" in one country and not in another?

"Medical ethics" is a recurring topic of interest to me, for several reasons.


The first is that the latest method of attack on parents who don't vaccinate, is to state that it's "unethical" not to vaccinate your children.  The main proponents of this policy are Dr Arthur Caplan and Dr Paul Offit, who set up this organisation, but the concept that parents who don't vaccinate are behaving unethically, and are indulging in both child and societal abuse, is becoming a world wide canker.  And it's a topic which needs some discussion, since those I would call the "medical militants", are starting to muscle in to people's homes, to lay down the "law" as to what an "ethical" parent should decide to do.

The second is, the way parents of children who have vaccine reactions, are treated by the system.  As many of you know, part of my time is trying to help people whose children react after vaccines, or whose daughters died, or are seriously ill after Gardasil.  Note the word "are."  The medical profession hasn't been able to "fix" most of these kids.

I don't spend too much time doing this now, because it is extremely stressful on our family life.  Every so often I do a bit of a sortie into the "real world" of mother's groups, and am horrified at the serious health issues vaccinated babies have, which are considered normal.  Mothers are reassured, primarily because most babies have these issues! I say nothing!  Most of those mothers are "wedded" to the medical system and have never even considered that their baby's problem might be directly related to their own non-health, non-nutrition, use of formula or vaccines. And there is no sense in disturbing their equilibrium, particularly when you can see that the parents have no confidence at all in their child's body, and consider that without the doctor their baby might die.

The people I spend most of my time talking to, also go to these mothers groups, and would be classified by the "ethical" medical system as "outliers."  The provaccine view (amongst the parents of the drug dependant babies) is so aggressive, most mothers who don't vaccinate never breathe a word.  Most of them sit silently,  grateful that their children do not have any of these issues - because of their lifestyles, and the fact that ... their babies are not vaccinated. 

Most of these non-vaccinating mothers are successful long term breastfeeders, who tend to leave mother's groups after their babies are around 12 months partly because of the disapproving looks they get from the formula feeders, who appear to think that breastfeeding that long, is abnormal and unhealthy. "Outliers", are reduced to silence, because the ethics of the medical system condones abnormality, and indeed appears to encourage it. I see the same reflected in medical ethics in general, where the mantra often seems to be, "Because it is a convenient option, we should do it" - and if you question it, you are abnormal.

Where is the "consistency" in the analysis of what is ethical and what is not?  And who says the ethicists - or parental norms - are even correct?

Back to Dr Elliott's book.  Dr Zugar writes:

But Dr. Elliott also takes a brief and very informative excursion into the world of the medical ethicists. Once they were highly principled, underpaid gadflies, trying to sort out medical decision making. Now they are part of a booming industry, and, speaking of industry, their ties to the pharmaceutical industry are many and complex. Many companies now hire their own ethicists. But who guards those guards?

Here's something else.  The curriculum of medical schools and post grad courses, is overseen and formed by medical ethicists.  Yet, many of those have very weird ideas, like a certain Dr Smajdor, who thinks that pregnancy is unethical:

Pregnancy is barbaric, Dr Smajdor contends – an illness so serious that it is comparable to measles, which is also occasionally fatal, but does not last nine months. 

As one commentator says, "in that case, sexual intercourse should be made illegal." Babies should be grown in artificial wombs, according to this woman.

So, who "polices" the ethicists? Pretty much no-one.  Apparently, ethicists are so "ethical," omnipotent and pontifical, that they don't need policing.  Most people also think their doctors are telling them the truth, when chances are, they may not be.  Most people who go with the flow, seem to be blind to the realities of the world.

Here is an interview where Amy Goodman interviews a more up-front medical ethicist, Harriet Washington, who explains how corporate American and transnational corporations, have taken control over life itself. 

As this article shows, ethicists themselves, might not see a conflict of interest even if it smacked them in the face.  It could be "normal"...  a "correlation" ....  or a "coincidence".

Within the vast mansion of bioethics there is a small but very active group of purists in the basement policing the ethics of the pragmatists. The bone of contention is not philosophical but financial. Many pragmatists earn substantial sums as consultants helping industry cope with government red tape and bad public relations. At times sniping between the two breaks into nasty skirmishes.

This bottom paragraph made me sit up:

David Magnus, now the co-editor of AJOB, took a far more relaxed view of the husband/wife conflict of interest issue. He felt that it was not a difficult problem to solve. “Half of my faculty at Stanford have spouses that work in biotech or are lawyers whose firms may represent biotech companies," he told Inside Higher Ed.

So..... it would appear that conflicts of interests have become so pervasive - everyone does it - so it is "not an issue"?  Easily dealt with?  Which about says it all.  We now have a society which runs on "situational ethics" which can change as fast as you can blink.  Or maybe, as fast as the money is passed under the table.

Medical ethics is something I want to take a closer look at, particularly looking at the issue of "inconsistency".  A writer asked this question: "Has drug-driven medicine become a form of human sacrifice?"   I think it has, but perhaps not in the way that writer meant it.

Google the term, "Your body is a drug - and We have the authority to regulate it".  And remember that THE FDA having authority to regulate human bodies, might not be the science fiction people might think it is.

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