Cognition & Reality

Monday, 16 August 2010

Medics And Morality

Filed under: Chemical Imbalance,Diagnosis,DSM,Medical Morality,Sex & Love — drtone @ 1:45 pm

A tragic trend in our society has given to physicians a large hand in shaping attitudes toward moral questions. For many years, our society has gravitated toward explaining what were once considered moral “failings” as medical disorders. Drunkenness, excessive gambling and destructive promiscuity are all  “addictions” treatable as diseases, through a combination of medication and highly structured behavioral programming. Insanity and emotional problems no longer result from circumstances caused by bad parents, but from chemical imbalances determined by the bad genes. This  effort to mold society according to a medical model is making doctors the arbiters of moral questions, although as a group they are singularly unsuited to the task.

The process of becoming a physician selects against the  reflection  and awareness one might want in a moral philosopher. The notoriously tough competition for entrance into medical school tends to go to the hardest working students rather than to the most creative. There is in a medical education that consciously reduces issues of life and death to CT scams and test results little to attract those most interested in the deepest questions. Although doctors like to style themselves as “scientists,”training in anatomy, applied physiology and clinical practice leave no room for the years of experience required to develop as a researcher. Although there are no hard and fast rules governing who enters the medical profession, the qualities that make a good doctor, a highly analytical mind, tremendous attention to detail,  ice water in the veins, are rarely found in combination with deep reflection and great sensitivity.

The upshot is that doctors consistently deliver simplistic solutions to life’s problems. These solutions tend to credit numbers over ideas and sensibleness over sensuality. In my own life, I’ve had to face the implications of an elevated PSA score, which is a warning sign of prostate cancer. Society’s answer, the medical profession’s answer, to the specter of prostate cancer is radical treatment that as often as not cuts literally and figuratively into one’s sex life. The implicit message is, “Only a fool would question giving up having erections as the cost of living cancer free,” although it is widely understood that prostate cancer is vastly overtreated, such that many men have needlessly had their sex lives shortened. We live in America, where sexual satisfaction is forever at the bottom of the list. In any case, human desire does not fit into the physician’s calculus.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] I have discussed before the unsuitability of doctors as arbiters of the larger questions that face our society and the individuals within it. A case in point is the behavior Kaiser Permanente has exhibited toward me regarding a high-ish PSA score I received in June. When they first notified me of the test results, they immediately tried to hustle me into their process for addressing prostate cancer. The rush to judgment disturbed me when I was already agitated and afraid. Moreover, their refusal to test me again before offering me a biopsy went against my own instincts as a test developer. It is SOP with a screening test to give it again when it shows a positive result, which Kaiser refused to consider in my case. […]

    Pingback by Medical Imperialism « Cognition & Reality — Tuesday, 12 October 2010 @ 2:56 pm | Reply


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