Magazine article Humane Health Care International

This Bit of Journalistic Humaneness

Magazine article Humane Health Care International

This Bit of Journalistic Humaneness

Article excerpt

Congratulations. Let's celebrate 12 good years of a special journal. The closing down of anything "humane" these days is a warning that non-humaneness may be gaining ground; it leaves a gap crying out to be filled.

Looking through my stack of Humane Medicine / Humane Health Care International, I notice the variety of articles from some with expertise and others with experience--some even with both. Among themes worthy of continuance are the discussions of the new patient autonomy, of taking responsibility for one's own health, and of the challenge that bioethics is posing to our understanding of how we make appropriate decisions in a complex situation, sorting out the roles of objectivity/subjectivity and neutrality/advocacy.

The themes are related. They reflect the way health-care professionals have been seen, and how they are viewed differently now. We might preface this by observing that the best thing that happened to Christianity was losing its status as the official religion of Western civilization. In turn, the worst thing that happened to the medical profession was becoming the established religion of our time. New doctor--old priest: authority-figure, shaman, magician. Even the terms are the same: the former "cure of souls" now simply concentrates on the presumed cure of bodies.

This is the dawning of the age of Aesculapius. The ancient cult of healing shared the Greek view of the world as spirited, and gave a piece of the action to those who tended groves dedicated to the god who healed with silence and with music, with herbs and charms. His symbol of serpent on stick remains: the caduceus now reflects a "high-tech" culture of surgery and drugs, but it's the same old reliance on technique. Now technique is not necessarily bad--only when we think we know what is really going on. Then we shift from the modest experimental method of good science to an "iffy" paradigm that threatens to become ideology.

As a philosopher, I'm enjoying the irony of Aristotle's revival through bioethics or through medical ethics, in particular. The ancient sage argued that there's only one method of knowing, one form of rationality--that is, to find ways appropriate to the object being examined. He distinguished two forms of understanding, according to the two kinds of objects. One is through "demonstration," the familiar syllogistic logic--QED [quid erat demonstrandum] and all that; the other is through "persuasion," when probable reasoning is the best way to proceed. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.