Monday, March 08, 2010

Life on the Line

(fm the BC thread "Informal networks")

The USAF flew a special airlift mission to carry the drug for the Soviets to use

That reminds me of the story of the American in Moscow some 30 to 40 years ago. The Cold War was occasionally getting hot and people were getting killed. The American was part of that struggle and they knew that their phone was bugged. One day they picked up the receiver and without dialing said "My child is sick, please help." Within a half hour a doctor was at their door and the child was properly cared for. You can not do that frivolously and you should only do that once but knowing that there are limits and rules and shared values is very important. It can save millions of lives lives.

The possibility that the person listening in could believe in what they were doing and still have a human connection with the subject of their investigation was explored in the film The Lives of Others. That shared humanity is both a strength for the policeman seeking to understand their quarry and a vulnerability as it can corrode loyalties. It can be used to facilitate recruitment in both directions.

In places where the Taliban Salafists or the Khomeinists take power could you even hope to get help if you picked up that phone? Will the person listening in be getting their ethical cues from Dr Ezekiel Emanuel? There is a pattern of physicians, or associated practitioners like Che Guevera, going bad. Zawahari, Hanan of Houston, the Glasgow airport doctors all succumbed to the temptation. It isn't only an Islamic problem, Nazi doctors and more recently Radovan Karadzic also lost their attachment to the basic humanity of the Hippocratic Oath.

Perhaps the problem happens when the physician draws a distinction between those they know and others. The latter become not Clients but Objects. Professional detachment morphs into seeing them as no different than laboratory mice in an experiment. There has been pressure to reword or dispose of the Oath in the training of physicians. It is viewed as an impediment to progressive health care by many, especially among Abortionists and their supporters. To me the problem with abortion isn't simply with the act itself but the cost to all of us of taking that brake off of members of the medical profession who have our lives in their hands.

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