Sean Murphy, Ramona Coelho, Philippe D. Violette, Ewan C. Goligher, Timothy Lau, Sheila Rutledge Harding, Rene Leiva
Extract Since 1948 the Declaration of Geneva (the Declaration) has insisted that physicians must practise medicine “with conscience and dignity.” In 2017 this provision was modified by adding, “and in accordance with good medical practice” .
Good medical practice in Canada is said to include providing euthanasia and assisted suicide or arranging for someone else to do so. From this perspective, physicians who cannot in conscience kill their patients or collaborate in killing are not acting “in accordance with good medical practice,” and – some might say – the revised Declaration.
However, this merely literal application of the text cannot be correct, since the WMA later reaffirmed its support for physicians who refuse to provide or refer for euthanasia and assisted suicide even where they are considered good medical practice . A reading informed by the history of the document is necessary and consistent with the care taken in its revision . This yields a rational and coherent account of the relationship of conscience and dignity to medical practice.
Dimitra Chousou, Daniela Theodoridou, George Boutlas, Anna Batistatou, Christos Yapijakis, Maria Syrrou
Abstract Heredity and reproduction have always been matters of concern. Eugenics is a story that began well before the Holocaust, but the Holocaust completely changed the way eugenics was perceived at that time. What began with Galton (1883) as a scientific movement aimed at the improvement of the human race based on the theories and principles of heredity and statistics became by the beginning of the 20th century an international movement that sought to engineer human supremacy. Eugenic ideas, however, trace back to ancient Greek aristocratic ideas exemplified in Plato’s Republic, which played an important role in shaping modern eugenic social practices and government policies. Both positive (encouragement of the propagation of the fit, namely without hereditary afflictions, i.e. socially acceptable) and negative (institutionalization, sterilization, euthanasia) eugenics focused on the encouragement of healthy and discouragement of unhealthy reproduction. All these practices were often based on existing prejudices about race and disability. In this article, we will focus on the rise of eugenics, starting with the publication of Origin of Species to the Holocaust. This examination will be multidisciplinary, utilizing genetics, legal history and bioethical aspects. Through this examination, we will discuss how provisional understandings of genetics influenced eugenics-based legislation. We will also discuss the rise of biopolitics, the change of medical ethos and stance towards negative eugenics policies, and the possible power of bioethical principles to prevent such phenomena.
Abstract The U.S. Public Health Service’s sexually transmitted disease (STD) experiments in Guatemala are an important case study not only in human subjects research transgressions but also in the response to serious lapses in research ethics. This case study describes how individuals in the STD experiments were tested, exposed to STDs, and exploited as the source of biological specimens—all without informed consent and often with active deceit. It also explores and evaluates governmental and professional responses that followed the public revelation of these experiments, including by academic institutions, professional organizations, and the U.S. federal government, pushing us to reconsider both how we prevent such lapses in the future and how we respond when they are first revealed.
Abstract Background: Hans Asperger (1906–1980) first designated a group of children with distinct psychological characteristics as ‘autistic psychopaths’ in 1938, several years before Leo Kanner’s famous 1943 paper on autism. In 1944, Asperger published a comprehensive study on the topic (submitted to Vienna University in 1942 as his postdoctoral thesis), which would only find international acknowledgement in the 1980s. From then on, the eponym ‘Asperger’s syndrome’ increasingly gained currency in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the conceptualization of the condition. At the time, the fact that Asperger had spent pivotal years of his career in Nazi Vienna caused some controversy regarding his potential ties to National Socialism and its race hygiene policies. Documentary evidence was scarce, however, and over time a narrative of Asperger as an active opponent of National Socialism took hold. The main goal of this paper is to re-evaluate this narrative, which is based to a large extent on statements made by Asperger himself and on a small segment of his published work.
Methods: Drawing on a vast array of contemporary publications and previously unexplored archival documents (including Asperger’s personnel files and the clinical assessments he wrote on his patients), this paper offers a critical examination of Asperger’s life, politics, and career before and during the Nazi period in Austria.
Results: Asperger managed to accommodate himself to the Nazi regime and was rewarded for his affirmations of loyalty with career opportunities. He joined several organizations affiliated with the NSDAP (although not the Nazi party itself), publicly legitimized race hygiene policies including forced sterilizations and, on several occasions, actively cooperated with the child ‘euthanasia’ program. The language he employed to diagnose his patients was often remarkably harsh (even in comparison with assessments written by the staff at Vienna’s notorious Spiegelgrund ‘euthanasia’ institution), belying the notion that he tried to protect the children under his care by embellishing their diagnoses.
Conclusion: The narrative of Asperger as a principled opponent of National Socialism and a courageous defender of his patients against Nazi ‘euthanasia’ and other race hygiene measures does not hold up in the face of the historical evidence. What emerges is a much more problematic role played by this pioneer of autism research. Future use of the eponym should reflect the troubling context of its origins in Nazi-era Vienna.
Thomas A. Cavanagh. Hippocrates’ Oath and Asclepius’ Snake:The Birth of the Medical Profession. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. 177 pp.
Publisher’s Description T. A. Cavanaugh’s Hippocrates’ Oath and Asclepius’ Snake: The Birth of the Medical Profession articulates the Oath as establishing the medical profession’s unique internal medical ethic – in its most basic and least controvertible form, this ethic mandates that physicians help and not harm the sick. Relying on Greek myth, drama, and medical experience (e.g., homeopathy), the book shows how this medical ethic arose from reflection on the most vexing medical-ethical problem – injury caused by a physician – and argues that deliberate iatrogenic harm, especially the harm of a doctor choosing to kill (physician assisted suicide, euthanasia, abortion, and involvement in capital punishment), amounts to an abandonment of medicine as an exclusively therapeutic profession. The book argues that medicine as a profession necessarily involves stating before others what one stands for: the good one seeks and the bad one seeks to avoid on behalf of the sick, and rejects the view that medicine is purely a technique lacking its own unique internal ethic. It concludes noting that medical promising (as found in the White Coat Ceremony through which U. S. medical students matriculate) implicates medical autonomy which in turn merits respect, including honoring professional conscientious objections.
Abstract This article describes and evaluates the Belgian euthanasia experience by considering its practice and policy, both before and after the formal decriminalisation of euthanasia in 2002. The pre-legal practice of euthanasia, the evolution of euthanasia legislation, criticism of this legislation, the influence of politics, and later changes to the 2002 Act on Euthanasia are discussed, as well as the subject of euthanasia of minors and the matter of organ procurement. It is argued that the Belgian euthanasia experience is characterised by political expedition, and that the 2002 Act and its later amendments suffer from practical and conceptual flaws. Illegal euthanasia practices remain a live concern in Belgium, something which nations who are seeking to decriminalise euthanasia should consider.
Abstract This article aims to trace back some of the theoretical foundations of medical ethics that stem from the philosophies of Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill and John Rawls. The four philosophers had in mind rational and autonomous human beings who are able to decide their destiny, who pave for themselves the path for their own happiness. It is argued that their philosophies have influenced the field of medical ethics as they crafted some very important principles of the field. I discuss the concept of autonomy according to Kant and JS Mill, Kant’s concepts of dignity, benevolence and beneficence, Mill’s Harm Principle (nonmaleficence), the concept of justice according to Aristotle, Mill and Rawls, and Aristotle’s concept of responsibility..
Abstract Respect for Autonomy (RFA) has been a mainstay of medical ethics since its enshrinement as one of the four principles of biomedical ethics by Beauchamp and Childress’ in the late 1970s. This paper traces the development of this modern concept from Antiquity to the present day, paying attention to its Enlightenment origins in Kant and Rousseau. The rapid C20th developments of bioethics and RFA are then considered in the context of the post-war period and American socio-political thought. The validity and utility of the RFA are discussed in light of this philosophical-historical account. It is concluded that it is not necessary to embrace an ethic of autonomy in order to guard patients from coercion or paternalism, and that, on the contrary, the dominance of autonomy threatens to undermine those very things which have helped doctors come to view and respect their patients as persons.
Abstract During the Nazi era, so-called euthanasia programs were established for handicapped and mentally ill children and adults. Organized killings of an estimated 70,000 German citizens took place at killing centers and in psychiatric institutions. Nurses were active participants; they intentionally killed more than 10,000 people in these involuntary euthanasia programs. After the war was over, most of the nurses were never punished for these crimes against humanity-although some nurses were tried along with the physicians they assisted. One such trial was of 14 nurses and was held in Munich in 1965. Although some of these nurses reported that they struggled with a guilty conscience, others did not see anything wrong with their actions, and they believed that they were releasing these patients from their suffering.
Abstract This Article examines the use by anti-contraception advocates of the claims that “contraception harms women” and “contraception is abortion,” claims made most prominently in litigation challenging Obamacare’s contraceptive coverage requirement. See Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014). The Article uncovers the nineteenth-century roots of these arguments and the strategic reasoning behind their current revival, to reveal that these claims are part of a broad attack on contraception grounded in opposition to non-procreative sex. In Part II, the Article reviews nineteenth-century reasoning about contraceptives, and then in Part III, discusses the modern revival of this Comstock era mode of reasoning about contraception which connected immorality and illness. Today, however, considerable social acceptance of sex for pleasure (at least for some people in some circumstances) means that straightforward arguments against contraception based on its immorality do not resonate as successfully as they once did. Social conservatives have publicly acknowledged as much, expressing an anxiety about the position of religion as “belief” rather than “truth,” and about a rise in what they call “sexualityism.” As a result, modern opponents of contraception have intentionally attempted to mask outmoded and unpopular moral opposition to non-procreative sex by using scientific discourse, citing the best science “we can currently lay our hands on,” for support. The problem for anti-contraception advocates, as revealed in Parts IV and V, is that the appeal to science is a purely rhetorical move, and their claims are contradicted by the latest scientific evidence. The Article establishes the safety and benefits of hormonal contraceptives to women’s and children’s health. The Article also shows that the claim that five hormonal contraceptives are abortifacients is false. Four out of five do not interfere with implantation of a fertilized egg and so cannot be said to terminate a “pregnancy,” even as redefined by opponents as occurring upon fertilization. Opposition to these hormonal contraceptives is thus not truly based on the view that destruction of a fertilized egg is immoral and should be considered an abortion. Rather, the opposition goes much deeper, stemming from a general objection to all forms of contraception and the ability of women to have sex without accepting the possibility of pregnancy and motherhood. The Article concludes in Part VI with evidence of the benefits of increased access to the most effective forms of contraception. Anti-contraception advocates are deploying woman-protective health arguments to limit access to contraception using a strategy similar to that adopted to oppose abortion. Anti-contraception advocates have melded these arguments to contemporary anxieties about heterosexual women’s ability to survive on equal footing with men in today’s sexual and marital “marketplace” in order to stymie efforts to expand contraceptive access and to further restrict access where possible.