Medicine is a moral concern: rejection of the partnership with state killing Open Access

Zivot, Joel B (2017)

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This paper will consider the relationship of medical practice, morality, and the state. At the heart of medical professionalism lies a claim that medicine is a moral matter concerned with what is right and what is wrong and a social contract exists between the doctor and the patient. Moral medicine must always be about healing and healing will never be a partner to killing. An examination of medicine and killing will require an understanding of the underpinnings and definition of morality. Moral matters will be understood to be fundamental truths, distinct from notions that ebb and flow. Medical practice is a lawfully regulated activity contained within a complex relationship between state interests and the interests of the medical profession. Physicians have a different social contract with the state and this relationship is a troubled alliance. Here, the state seeks to engage in an exchange of physician self-regulation with filial state loyalty. Within this model, independent physician practice is at the behest of the state to grant or revoke and the state reserves the right to use the power of medicine as it sees fit. Tension between state interests and physician interests are pointedly revealed in the circumstance of death. The medical profession has long sought a relationship with death that will be morally consistent within medical practice. Moral medicine asserts that death is not a treatment. Death occurs naturally and unnaturally and in these unnatural moments, conflicting interests might require state adjudication. Abortion and physician assisted suicide are examples of a public request for death that continues to consume public discourse. For the physician, it appears possible to consider death in these cases as a form of treatment even while recognizing the slipperiness of the moral slope. For the state, physician willingness to participate in these cases created the necessary leap to convert death from treatment to punishment in the form of lethal injection. Capital punishment, masquerading as medicine, confounds the medical profession. In reply, physicians must walk back any hint of physician-state complicity here and reject any part of death as punishment shrouded in a medical face.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Doctor, Patient, and the Interest of the State- 4

Chapter 2: Medicine, Suffering, and Legal Killing- 18

Chapter 3: Lethal Injection and the Physician- 34

Conclusion- 51

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