Sunday, July 27, 2008

"Ethical Problems are Painful"

Maurice Bernstein, MD, has posted this at his blog:

Ethicist Erich Loewy challenges me with the following: "You are standing in front of a building which is on fire and two things are trapped in it: the one a happy carpenter with three children and the other a Petridish with developing stem cells. You can only rescue one. What would you do?"

Here is an answer some person might give: "I would not rescue either because they are of equal worth."

What answer would you give? Is simply being alive the same as being aware of and participating in a life?

Erich Loewy is a bioethicist at the University of California Davis Medical Center. He is the author of several philosophical works, including a highly-regarded text on health-care ethics.

Loewy (pronounced LOO-vee) fled his native Austria at age 11 and lost much of his family to the Holocaust.

He has made a reputation for himself as a no-nonsense critic of American medicine. Here are some Loewy quotables:

"Ethical problems are painful. We try to avoid pain."

"One of the functions of the bioethicist, in my view, is to piss people off, not sufficiently to turn their hearing aids off but sufficiently to get them thinking and to get them out of the comfort of their thinking."

"When you have an ethical problem, you have invariably a number of options, almost all of which are unpalatable."

"It's impossible to practice ethical medicine in an unethical system."

"...we give children no health care. We are not a life-affirming society."

Read the UC Davis Magazine interview with Loewy here.

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