How sure are you that you’re getting the right information from your physician? How certain are you that you’re getting all the information you might need from a person who is supposed to be responsible for helping you look after your well-being?
If you’re part of an 18% minority, you may not be getting your money’s worth. Seems that’s the percentage of physicians who won’t tell a patient about treatments that the physician finds “morally objectionable”; apparently many doctors have a compunction about — for instance — abortion after failed contraception, or providing contraception to teens without parental consent. Many physicians aren’t in favor of assisted suicide either.
On the one hand the argument goes like this: Physicians, as all other Americans, have a right to make personal and professional choices, including choosing not to do something they find offensive. This is sensible. If I were a physician and had a patient who insisted that the only way I could examine him/her was if I took my pants off, I think I’d refuse treatment — and suggest a psych workup.*
And I thnk it’s okay for some physicians to steer patients away from some treatments. If I’m an oncologist and a patient of mine says he’s going to get psychic surgery performed to remove his tumors — or that a homeopathic preparation has purged him of cancer — I’m probably going to do my utmost to dissuade him. On either front there simply isn’t any medical value; both types of “treatment” are effective, at best, on the placebo level, and they certainly don’t take the place of legitimate medical intervention.
So while I can accept the validity of a physician advising a patient on sound medical and science-backed practices, the distrubing side of it is the way religious sentiment has crept into — one could even say corrupted — medical advice.
I understand that many religions actively teach against conception control of any kind, whether by condom, pill or abortion. I understand that many religions teach against suicide, even if it’s closer to euthanasia than deliberate self-murder by a more or less healthy, functioning individual. But while the sentiments might be genuine, the fact is that the premises are not.
There is simply no evidence to support the idea of a god, gods, devil, demons, angels or even souls. There isn’t a shred of verifiable, reproducible findings anywhere to support the claims of even the most nonmystical religions.** And when you analyze the claims made by the big contenders, things just get silly.
For instance, all Abrahamic traditions teach that God (JHVH, Allah) is anthropomorphic, presumably to the point of having a penis and testicles. This raises some immediate and interesting questions, such as how big is God’s schlong, and is God circumcised or not?
Some people are probably recoiling in horror right about now — assuming they made it this far — but these are fair questions. If, as the Abrahamic texts have it, Man was made in God’s image, it’s only reasonable to assume that God’s got precisely the same plumbing as Adam, Steve and so forth.
Seriously. If this is what the Mosaica actually assert — and they do — these are perfectly sensible questions, but it’s amazing how effectively they make people squirm. Not because they’re blasphemous, but because they illustrate how damned silly the entire thing is. That an infinitely-powerful, immortal being would take the form of an ape descendant is simply a ridiculous notion. At least the Egyptians and Babylonians had some imagination — they cast their gods as chimeras rather than humdrum, boring old men who happened to look just like themselves.
Further silliness can be found in Christianity in two primary areas: The appearance of “Jesus”*** and the virgin conception.
Virgin conception is impossible, plain and simple. It’s also a common claim. Many religions have used it over the millennia to place divine attributes on some favored deity or demigod. Strictly speaking, many of the Greek and Roman pantheon were birthed from nonsexual means. Without resorting to magic (“miracles”), virgin birth is simply out of the question.
And yet, it would seem that some physicans — medical practitioners! — believe this is not only possible, but perfectly sensible.
The other silly side of Christianity is the lily-white “Jesus”. Here’s what someone from Palestine looks like today:
Here’s what we’re supposed to think “Jesus” looked like.
Umm … am I the only one who’s having difficulty seeing the kinship here?
Nonetheless, despite the obvious ethnic issues, millions of people believe the lower image is somehow an accurate representation of what this “Jesus” person was supposed to look like. And it’s a one-in-five chance that your physician is one of those people, apparently.
I don’t know about you, but if my doctor can’t even tell the difference between a Caucasian and a Palestinian, I don’t know that I’d trust him to differentiate a mole from melanoma — or even allergies from full-blown viral pneumonia. And I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to count on the soundness of his advice regarding things such as contraception or methods to guard against STDs (abstinence isn’t an option and not a suggestion to be taken seriously by anyone).
The question then becomes one of how much trust you think you can extend to your doctor, and should underscore the value of a second opinion. While you might not want to grill your physician — you may not want to look him in the eye and say, “Listen, you don’t buy into all this bullshit, do you?” — if your doctor advises you to do something that doesn’t make sense to you personally, you have the right to refuse or to say you want to seek further advice, possibly from a specialist. (That’s a polite way of telling him you think he might be full of crap.)
Since there’s no way to screen for silliness on the med-school entrance level, unfortunately there’s no way to keep religious ideation from affecting (afflicting, perhaps) the medical field. This means, unfortunately, that the Hippocratic oath must transform itself into caveat emptor.
Keep that in mind the next time you go in for a checkup.
* Provided, of course, one of my many trouserless psychiatrist friends had an opening in his schedule.
** Buddhism, a fairly well-grounded religion (at least in its Western flavors), still dabbles in mysticisms such as “rebirth”, but at least it’s specifically nontheistic and actively denies the existence of a “soul”.
*** Put in quotes because the historical existence of such a person is actually far from certain; in other words he may never have existed at all.
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