11 Sep, 12 | by Iain Brassington
On his blog in The Independent, John Rentoul has a long-running feature called “Questions to which the Answer is No“. In it, he examines the kind of screaming rhetorical-question headline much beloved of certain middle-market tabloids: “Is this photographic evidence of Nessie?”, “Does coffee cure cancer?”, “Does coffee cause cancer?”, “Does MMR bring down house prices?“* and so on.
Here’s the first in an intermittent parallel series from me: “Questions to which the Answer is Eh? What are you on about? No, really: what?“. For the inaugural post, step forward Dan Sokol, the BMJ”s “ethics man”, who asks in his latest column, “Is Bioethics a Bully?”. The answer to this is Eh? What are you on about? No, really: what?.
(A warning before I start: I’m about to go off on one. Even by my standards, this is big. You might want to go and make tea.)
The general thesis of the article is this:
Bioethics, in its current form, has bullying tendencies. Ironically, it often adopts a paternalistic attitude towards clinicians, treating them as an ethically deficient species. Although bioethics should not shy away from pointing out ethical concerns in medical practice, sometimes forcefully, it must not give way to negativism or, worse still, to a zeal to condemn. Clinicians are easy targets and, without a command of the fancy theories and language of the accusers, possess few means to respond formally.
Is the thesis true? more…