Post-Hippocratic Barbarism

Mark Pickup
March 20, 2007
Reproduced with Permission

There was a time when I might have believed humanity had passed beyond barbarism of past centuries and into sunlit enlightenment. I might have believed it if I was kept unaware of 20th Century barbarism. This western barbarism culminated in cultural embrace (even celebration) of abortion on demand, and, more recently, the advent of euthanasia consciousness. Yes, if I had lived in a bubble apart from the happenings of man, I might have believed a myth that humanity is capable, on its own, of attaining glorious heights of refined enlightenment.

But I have not lived in a bubble! I know it is not possible! Not even I, in my obvious stupidity and dullness of mind, could buy that myth. My eyes see and my soul has often stirred to learn of cruelties that mar human history to this very day! Besides, in my own crude way, I contributed to the brutality of the age to which I refer. G.W.F. Hegel (1797-1856) said in the Introduction his essays of the Philosophy of History, "What experience and history teach is this - that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it."

Hegel was right. Barbarisms of the past have surged unabated, becoming more brutal and brutish, executed with more cunning, deadly precision against more lives as one century passes into the next.

I have become seriously disabled with degenerative, incurable disease. The culture's patience is growing thin with people like me. They grit their teeth and become short and cross. People like me are burdens on the state. Useless consumers.

The more profound my disability becomes, the sniping becomes louder. In some circles, a guttural snarling comes from secularists in bioethics, secular philosophy, post-Hippocratic medicine and public policy formation. They are like a pack of wolves circling lame prey preparing to pounce at just te right moment and dispense us to the abyss with stunning efficiency. "You are too expensive and burdensome to keep around" they hiss. "It is better to be dead than disabled" they whisper in chant-like snarls.

A decade ago, fears were allayed for the weak, the old, the incurably ill and seriously disabled, by promoting living wills or advanced directives. We were told these flimsy pieces of paper would force health care providers to honor our treatment wishes. Living wills or advanced directives would represent us in the event we were unable. And many vulnerable people completed them, then rested easy. Poor dolts.

That was before the idea of futile care came along. What is futile care? It is where a physician can override a living will or the wishes of a family and deny treatment to a patient, if the treating physician deems treatment to be futile. The post-Hippocratic doctor becomes god-like-an agent of darkness, a monstrous polyp of evil.

Changing face of medicine

Why has the time-honored profession of medicine so willingly given up their noble vow only to heal and never intentionally kill? Why have they so readily adopted the ignoble role of executing incurable patients? Post-Hippocratic physicians have become agents for the new-age wolves advocating a culling the herd of its sick and disabled. I do not understand!

Advocates of assisted suicide lure the incurably ill and disabled to our graves when we are lost in a fog of depression, or are overwhelmed by abandonment, and lost all hope. These charmers of the sepulcher use seductive but phony terms such as "self-deliverance" and "gentle exit" to sell death; these pied pipers call to the despairing and the desperate with counterfeit promises of death with dignity, only to give the last indignity of abandonment. Advocates of assisted suicide call death a right and imperfect life wrong.

The pied pipers of abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide call physicians to do their bidding and they snap to attention adhering to the tyranny of political fashion rather than any ancient and solemn oath.

The post-Hippocratic physician took no ancient vow. The oath of Hippocrates has been abandoned in the 21st Century, along with old fashioned vows not to give abortion or deadly medicine to patients. The patient has been abandoned too. If my aggressive multiple sclerosis is not stopped or slowed, my future may be as profoundly disabled as Terri Schiavo. Will I be treated in a similar fashion? I suppose so. Oaths mean nothing to a secularized and faithless generation that has sunk below shame. To them, purity and holiness are meaningless and 3-20-07.

Mark Pickup of Beaumont, Alberta, Canada, authors a blog entitled "Human Life Matters". He is a triplegic with advanced multiple sclerosis. He says as his disability increases, he has become interested in discovering Christian meaning in suffering. His priorities are faith, family and sanctity of human life. "I will dedicate whatever energies I have left to these things. I am now convinced that if a society does not embrace the sanctity, dignity and equality of all human life (and North American society does not) then any barbarity is possible. A truly civilized society includes in its tender embrace every human life".