Values and Medical Practice

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There is always an ideology behind any reasoned action. These ideologies, which help in shaping policies and methods, are themselves shaped by the dominant values derived from influences that have affected the lives of the individuals groups or societies over time.

What are “values”? Standards, principles, tenets, morals or beliefs of a person, social group or society, which they uphold and defend, in which they have an emotional investment, toward which they have a sentimental regard and to which they readily subscribe. If a practitioner involved in medical practice has let himself be vitally touched by these influences while passing through them, it is expected that his attitudes and actions in medical practice would be influenced by these influences that have configured his value base. The effects of these influences are seen today in the values guiding medical practice.

Values Guiding Medical Practice: hyp5

Dating back to prehistoric era, the aim of medical practice has always been to heal in order to alleviate suffering and to preserve life. The most important value base of Medical Practice has been, therefore, the acceptance that life is precious and sacred. This is supported by evidences from recorded history: the Edwin Smith Papyrus has records of high technical skills and discipline displayed by the Egyptians as early as 3000BC1 reflecting the high premium placed on life-servicing and preservation. The harsh penalties of kingHammurabi of Babylon (1948-1905BC) express this value base more eloquently and seem to say that the practitioner cannot afford to be careless, or even make mistakes, in medical practice. The medical practitioner should, therefore, be a competent and highly-motivated person who understood the spiritual implication of the work he did as to continue in practice in the face of such very high demands. Most of them understood they were instruments of God or the gods, fulfilling the human aspect of a divine action. This is also apparent from the records in the Holy Bible (Psalm 41:3-4, 2Kings 20:1-7, James 5:14-15, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 28:1-14) and in the words of the Hippocratic Oath.

Medical practice was said to have suffered great deterioration when Hippocratic ideals were neglected and virtually abandoned after the death of Galen (in 199AD) until they were restored in the 16th century AD2. This was also the time when church control of medical practice was very high, suggesting that Hippocratic values are in line with Judeo-Christians values. Some medical historians however complain that Christian control of medical practice engendered inhibition of free thought and research. A number of contemporary medical scientists seem to be nursing the same thought and have cleverly tried, and largely succeeded (playing on some sentiments) in undermining the traditional codes and ideologies of medical practice.

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It has been noted that today, the values guiding medical practice have become diverse and so while the Hippocratic/religious values are still influencing medical practice in many quarters other values have become exceedingly important in some other quarters; these include economic values, political values, socio-cultural values and very importantly, the glamour of scientist achievement as a value base. It is obvious that these diverse postures would make regulation of medical practice difficult thereby spelling chaos. It is because medical practice cannot afford such anarchy, given that human life is involved in this matter that the need exists for a firm definition of policies and ideologies of universal application, reflecting uniformity in values. Efforts so far in this direction include:

The International Code ofMedical Ethics

Rules for Professional Conduct.

International Guidelines forBiomedical Research Involving Human  Subjects

Declaration of Helsinki – See a detailed exposition

The Physicians’ Oath.

These codes, rules and guidelines are largely in line with values in most religions and the practitioner engaged in medical practice at any level may not have his Faith offended if he follows them strictly. But the state of medical practice now shows that these sublime values have been subverted and wounded in many important avenues and medical practice now experiences a horrifying perversion.

Perversion:

What is the source of this degrading perversion generally witnessed in medical practice today? Of course the devil is the source of all perversions but he uses human beings as his agents in this business. It is in the spirit of building a progressive world community not to permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, party politics or social standing to negatively intervene in human relations. This is a desirable, noble principle but it could be misunderstood and could be manipulated; it apparently became interpreted by some people to mean that values influenced by religion, nationality race, party politics or social standing should be discarded. A central value would, therefore, be required that should cut across all these. Some people struck the right cord, it seems, when they proposed an ideology that seemed to satisfy this position – Humanism. This is the devils deadly tool.

The influence of humanism has been tremendous3. It is now the value base of most of the Philosophies of modern society. The humanist manifesto makes an interesting reading. The closing statement of Humanist Manifesto II summarizes the impression it wishes to create. “… At the present juncture of history, commitment to all mankind is the highest commitment of which we are capable; it transcends the narrow allegiances of church, state, party, class or race in moving toward a wider vision of human potentiality.” The document contains many other attractive, honorable and desirable goals expressed in beautiful language but the main message of humanism is expressed in much fewer words, the others proving to have served as a mere attractive coating of the real substance. These “few words”, expressing the real doctrine, which is Secular Humanism, include their non-belief in the existence of God, of life after the death of the body and of a divine purpose or providence for the human species, rejection of “features of traditional religious morality that deny human a full appreciation of their own potentiality and responsibilities”, their recognition of the right to birth control, abortion divorce and form of sexual behavior “ between consenting adults”, right to birth euthanasia and to suicide and their wish to” resist censorship of basic scientific research on moral, political or social grounds”.

The doctrine, secular humanism, has been very successfully propagated, chisolm2surprisingly, but it is easy to see the reason why. It, understandably, appeals to many who have been looking for excuses to escape from the encumbering influence of religion and moral demands and to those that are not very discerning, who apparently form the greater percentage of the population. Very importantly the propagators of the doctrine have been strategically powerful persons to whom the people looked up and trusted for expert guidance, few but strategically placed persons who cleverly utilized the opportunity they had. While fully analyzing this issue, Fr. Golden informs us that the philosophy which inspires the United Nations Organization (UNO) is that of materialistic secular humanism and that the guidelines chisolm1were laid down by the first directors of three U.N.O specialized Agencies, the W.H.O, the F.A.O. and the U.N.E.S.C.O, all of who were humanists4. The writings of Dr. Brock Chisolm, the first director of the World Health Organization (W.H.O) appear to have, in no small measure influenced the formulation of the emerging values influencing contemporary medicalpractice. The eugenicist Margaret Sanger was also a powerful, clever, respected figure, though with a notorious lifestyle, whose perverted mind produced such works that still influence medical practice today, especially in the area of Birth Control. She founded the Planned Parenthood Federation, a deceptive organization, with an evil agenda, known for promotion of Birth Control.

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Humanists believe (as written in their manifesto) in maximum individual autonomy and also believe that “the possibilities of individual freedom of choice exist in human life and should be increased.” There is no wonder, therefore, that humanism, which sort to provide a central value base ended up advocating a more diversifying principle of “values clarification” and this can be further seen in the sanger2method of education invented by humanist Sidney Simon in the U.S.A. which has spread to most parts of the world, and can also be seen in a statement credited to another humanist, Erica Carle who was said to have told some school children. “It’s Ok to lie, it’s Ok to steal. It’s Ok to cheat, It’s Ok to kill… If these things are part of your own value system and you have clarified these values yourself. The most important thing is not what values you chose but that you have chosen them yourself. .. freely and without coercion by parents, spouses, priests, ministers or social pressures of any kind”4. These are the clever serpentine ways of the devil, and it is not difficult to see that in medical practice of today these devilish values are already enjoying a pride of place and we have begun to see some adverse consequences.

Adverse Consequences:

It is not difficult to see the adverse effects of indiscriminate adoption of values, on contemporary medical practice, especially as they undermine religious and other traditional well-meaning values, and are based on the doctrine of secular humanism overtly or covertly.

1.Abortion is murder but has been legalized in many countries although it is a violation of the international code of medical ethics. It is a crime against humanity (See graphic proof). Those who called for the legalization, the lawmakers who legalized it, and those carrying out the practice in these countries, ought to be prosecuted and tried for crimes against humanity as is being done to contemporary war criminals and as was done to Nazi Germans who killed Jews for a similar reason of unwantedness.

  1. The glamour of scientific achievement as a value base now drives medical scientists to unwholesome practices in order to make scientific mark. Medical practitioners need a necessary redirection of focus from the present moral and ethical derailment. There are many reports of the use of living aborted fetuses for cruel experimentation, and the use of parts obtained from living human fetuses for organ transplantation fetuses for organ transplantation. Vaccines produced from suchcruel fetal experimentation have recently proved dangerous. Those people carrying out these kinds of practice deserve to be tried for medical crimes as was done to German doctors at the Nuremberg Trials for performing cruel experiments on prisoners during the Second World War.
  1. Dangerous practices are being carried out in the area of Family Planning as Birth Control. The unwholesomeness of practice of in-vitro fertilization and artificial insemination is attracting a lot of objections and arguments.
  1. Euthanasia bills have been presented, and passed, in some countries and euthanasia is being increasinglypracticed around the world.
  1. Promotion of use of condoms as a means ofcontrolling HIV/AIDS has gained grounds even as it is clear this is a direct promotion of sexual immorality and a promotion of the spread of HIV/AIDS It is not 100 percent effective in controlling the transmission of the disease and this means a lot even at 90% effectiveness. It shows our unseriousness in controlling such a very serious condition. We need to be seriously enlightened before jumping into a deadly conclusion.

Conclusion:

In this depressing scenario, how possible is it for the practitioners to practice, effectively guided by the right values? The matter depends on his own seriousness in maintaining those sublime values imbibed from our medical progenitors and our excellent training? The seriousness will lead him to learn what his position should be in controversial matters and to know how to uphold and fight for propriety and humaneness in the care of the sick, and for protection of the very vulnerable in our society (such as the unborn), in various important areas of medicine. Information exists in abundant sources discussing Medical Ethics, the Religious Care of the sick, and other important issues on properhealth care delivery. A document like Humanae Vitae (July 25, 1968) has proved to be a prophetic document and a very valuable navigational compass with regard to the situation we find ourselves now. Seek for such authoritative documents from informed sources that have an acceptable value base.

Do not be discouraged that efforts have not resulted in curbing evil trends in medical practice. It could have been worse, much worse. Contribute your quota by fighting aberrations actively from height to height. It is well understood that an attempt when there is little chance of success risks failure but absence of attempts guarantees failure. Be vigilant and focused, not allowing any emerging aberrations in medical practice undermine your sacrosanct values.

REFERENCES

  1. Brieger G .H The Development of Surgery. Historical Aspects Important in the Origin and Development of Modern Surgical Science In Sabiston D.C (Ed) Textbook of Surgery, 13th Ed 986 W.B Sounders Company, Tokyo P.1
  1. Badoe E.A.A Brief History of Surgery. In Badoe E.A., Archeampong E.Q ,and Jaja M.O.A (Ed) Principles and Practice of Surgery. 1966. Ghana Publishing Co-operation PP 1-2.
  1. Nweze, C.C Values and Medical Practice Nigeria Medical Journal, July 1993 P.25-28.
  1. Golden, M. In: Humanism and Population Plans. 1986 Fourth Dimension Publishers, New Haven, Enugu. P.13
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