This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow,
as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
This ancient proverb, phrased so beautifully by William Shakespeare in the form of fatherly advice (Polonius, in Hamlet) echos Socrates’ “Know thyself,” and Jiminy Crickets’ “Still, small voice that people won’t listen to.” Unfortunately, that’s no longer “the trouble with the world today.”
The Roanoke, Virginia Times has an editorial today about the controversies surrounding the practice of medicine, with and without a conscience. The controversy, of course, is abortion and possible abortifacient medications. There is a poll on the site, asking the question, Should doctors’ religious or ethical beliefs shape the way they practice medicine? The number of votes as of this writing is 6, with 83% answering “yes.” I plan to check back often and will not be surprised if the results become skewed the other way.
The pressure on medical professionals is to ignore their consciences – their choice – and to “just do their jobs” or “follow the law.”
Ethicist Julian Salvescu (link to the report in this blog) wrote his opinion in The British Medical Journal in February, stating that the practice of medicine according to personal conscience and guided by religious beliefs and “value-driven medicine” is a door to a Pandora’s box of idiosyncratic, bigoted, discriminatory medicine.
The statement is in itself a “value-driven” belief, as are judgements such as “idiosyncratic,” “bigoted,” and “discriminatory.” As is any call for medical ethics. The safest “choice” is to allow individuals to be true to themselves and their consciences, in order to encourage them not to be “false to any man.”