As a bioethical principle, respect for autonomy asks far too little of our minds and hearts. When the moral stakes are highest, we degrade patients by treating them as though they were simply bundles of self-interest.
The AMA’s Code of Medical Ethics is a cautionary tale of what happens when medical ethics are grounded in social policy and personal intuitions rather than timeless, universal, and immutable moral truths.
Despite its naysayers, the original Hippocratic oath remains an enduring icon of medical ethics because it eschews the unbound and nebulous principles of modern bioethics in favor of traditional virtues and transcendent truths.
In its zeal to deal with suffering, modern bioethics fails to account for the rights of the sufferer. There is no law that can legitimize taking a life too soon.
In deciding to withdraw life-sustaining treatment from an alert and cognizant patient who was pleading for his life, a Texas hospital’s ethics committee stole from him the two most fundamental rights enumerated in our Constitution: life and liberty.
Judicial overreach and badly flawed constitutional reasoning were not the worst offenses committed by the Roe court. Far worse was its contempt for facts and truth, which left a cultural wound that continues to fester.