Opinions

Medical Ethics Is All Political Economy!

Comments (7)
  1. Cynic says:

    Oh finally someone honest. You can generalise it to secular ethics is all about political economy. If you are rich and powerful enough you can do no wrong, anywhere in the world. In fact the laws of the land are probably written to accommodate you and your lifestyle. Tell me all these are false. The poor die, the rich have a cosmetic surgery. Is this not true too? I wondered what Karl Marx thought of ethics.

  2. angry doc says:

    Interesting. I would love to know what alternative to the current system Dr Epstein suggested.

  3. Heather_Chi says:

    @Cynic: I think this was precisely the point Epstein was trying to get at. With a system that is unfair to begin with, changing the rules within that system to 'make it more ethical' is simply playing the system's game and stifling the possibility for critical discourse and the development of a more just system. Although I confess I haven't read Marx thoroughly, my feeling is that Marx would support Epstein. Demanding a 'better ethics' is akin to demanding more 'better wages'. The power relations remain the same, the system hasn't changed for the better – or at all.

    @angry doc: Although I was unfortunately unable to stay to the end of the debate, my general sense was that Epstein was cautioning the audience (and by extension the medical profession) not to restart the entire debate about reforming and reviewing "medical ethics" per se, but to in fact politically challenge the medical institutions they were working for. To him, the ethics were fine as they were already, however keeping them within a solely 'ethical' (and medical) framework absolved doctors from interrogating the ways in which 'ethical' issues have even come to be defined as such – a consequence of the political and social influence of the medical industry in wider society.

  4. angry doc says:

    Thanks for the reply. I myself cannot imagine that a 'free-for-all' system where doctors substituted their individual morality or conscience for a codified profession-wide ethical code will be a better system. I believe an ethical code serves as an interface between the legal system and doctors (so they each know what to expect from each other) and also between doctors and patients – it will be a little unnerving to walk into a clinic not knowing whether your doctor believed in the concept of patient confidentiality ot not, for example.

    Locally I feel that the ethical code is still largely determined by the medical professionals themselves than their employers or the government; however, I can also see that this is changing as the government is moving into the field, telling us how what we once thought was ethical is no longer (guidelines of fees is now 'price-fixing'), and what we once believed was unethical is now acceptable (organ selling is now 'compensation for donor').

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Established in 2009, The Kent Ridge Common is the independent daily of the National University of Singapore. Writers comprise largely of current undergrads with select alumni contributing to the paper. Opinions expressed are of the writer's own. Please visit our disclaimer page for our terms and conditions.
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