Our exclusive ethics survey: Compliments and criticism; Clashing views on abortion
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Your special ethics issue, "Choices" [Oct 11], was excellent in all regards. It covered a lot of bases and addressed some questions that are rarely asked. These complex issues can be very difficult to deal with on a daily basis. "Choices" was a good wake-up call for many of us.
J.O. Cletcher, MD
"Choices" is a colossal failure. It ignored the greatest ethical issue facing physicians: Do patients have a right to health care? This question is at the root of all arguments over health care financing, privacy, reimbursements, and, most importantly, quality of care.
Many who believe that a right to care exists dream of the day when health care becomes nationalized. But when this happens, our society will learn a bitter lesson: It has always been the personal autonomy of patients and physicians that provides the best care to the greatest number of people.
Is your inexcusable omission of this debate an oversight or intellectual cowardice? The factionincluding journalists of your ideological stripewho uphold the "right" to health care while wondering why the system is failing should heed the warning from Ayn Rand: "Do not ask, 'Who is destroying the world?' You are."
The survey results in "Abortion: A right or an outrage?" [Oct. 11] cause me great concern for our profession and our country. At one time there was more clarity about right and wrong. But now, with the increase of moral relativism, among other things, absolute moral truths are no longer considered absoluteor even truths.
Whatever happened to the following concepts?
He forbids killing of innocent humans.
Life begins at conception.
Truth is not created by opinion or consensus.
Donald Rose, MD
Hood River, OR
A comprehensive, ethical analysis of abortion should not forget those who are most protected by this procedurethe unwanted children who would otherwise be born.
Perhaps physicians should try to look past their personal discomforts with abortion to see its broader social implications. Unwanted children are often among society's most wrongedthey are disabled (by gestational exposure to harmful substances or disease), unloved, neglected, abused or even abandoned. As a consequence, they grow up to be unhealthy or even dangerous adults.
Rather than providing residency training on the techniques of abortion to address the shortage of physicians willing to perform this procedure, it may be more effective to help medical students develop a more holistic definition of health. This should include consideration of mental and psychological status, economics, family stability and child development, social and community influences, stress, and social inequities.
University of Michigan, School of Public Health
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Letters to the Editors. Medical Economics 2002;24.