Personal Narrative and an
African American Perspective
on Medical Ethics
Ezra E.H. Griffith
BIOMEDICAL ethics is a subject that is attracting much attention both from laypersons and from health care professionals. Indeed, I believe that developments in other peripherally related areas are catalyzing this renewed general interest in ethics. The Abu Ghraib prison debacle in Iraq certainly has contributed to focusing attention on the ethics of prosecuting war. But it is the possible direct or indirect involvement of physicians in the activity of torture that has furthered greater interest in the ethics of health care professionals.1 Other revelations have now suggested that the medical records of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been made available to interrogators and those torturing the detainees.2 What medical professionals do, or don’t do, is of current interest to us all. Everybody wants to know how the medical professional develops and articulates a moral foundation on which to base a way of leading his or her professional life.
Of course, this curiosity and interest are not new. They have just been, once again, reawakened by the discovery of the conditions at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. And while some would have us believe that those conditions reflect an unusual and aberrant context, commentators such as Lifton remind us that any one of us, including physicians, can be caught in