Saturday, October 1, 2011

It takes all kinds

Ethics are truly fascinating because everyone views things very differently. And most people are fairly passionate about their views; I know I am.

Many of our lecturers have been very candid about their ethical views. One professor made it clear he has bias towards women’s rights. And every time he presented his views, he made them clear that they were his views.

....not all professors are like this.

For example, in our genetics class, we were told that it is totally appropriate to deny pre-symptomatic testing for Huntington’s disease (and many other diseases) to an adult or child. It was not presented as “an opinion”, but as the ethical thing to do. I disagree, and I know I’m not the only person in the room to disagree.

Both sides of this argument were never shown in class. What about women who would like to get pregnant? Should we deny them Huntington’s testing so they can pass that horrible disease onto their progeny? What about a parent who wants to prepare their child for what may be coming?

It was presented a bit too much like playing God for me. “No, trust me, even though I’ve never had Huntington’s, I know you are going to deal with this poorly. Oh, and by the way, I know what’s best for your child too. Nevermind that we trust you to make decisions about abortion, you are not allowed to find out if your child is going to die a horrible death. No taking him to Disney World early for you. I’ll make these hard decisions for you. That’s right, I will mount my high horse.”

Now, I know that not all the people who agree with not pre-symptomatically testing are like this. And furthermore, it is a perfectly valid position to take. I have no problem with people who take this stance. Please don’t take offense; it does not anger me. I completely understand your choice, and am supportive of trying to lessen undo pain on a patient. I get it.

But Mr. Genetics professor: don’t present it as the obvious ethical choice to make. It’s not obvious. Just like abortion isn’t obvious.

And especially don’t present it as the obvious choice in a medical school class. It’s not so much a problem for the older people in our class who have had a chance to be in the “real” world. But those students just coming out from college, who haven’t had time to develop their ethical and political view of the world free from academia bias, are impressionable.

Instead, perhaps it would be better to present the lecture as YOUR ethical choice. 

It’s a bit disappointing to me to see our school blithely bias these lectures to align with their view of the world. It’s angering to me that our professor presented the material like this.

And it saddens me that someone in the future may be denied testing they need for their peace of mind, family planning or whatever valid reason they have because some physician was imprinted with a biased lecture from the first year of medical school.

1 comment:

  1. I'm honestly shocked that anyone would consider it ethical to not offer pre-symptomatic testing to someone who may have the Huntington's gene. I can't imagine any physician thinking that it is his/her right to make that choice for a patient. Obviously there are emotional/psychological/other consequences to testing for Huntington's, but I think it needs to be the patient who decides whether or not to take on those consequences - not a physician who thinks he/she knows what's best for the patient.