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July 23, 2024

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Evil Twins – Roe and Doe: How the Supreme Court Unleashed Medical Killing

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On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court released two, interlocked abortion decisions overturning the laws of all the individual states. Only one of the decisions, Roe v. Wade, tends to get much media attention, and it is popularly said that it grants a ‘woman’s right to choose.’ But Justice Blackmun is in several places very adamant: though it had been explicitly sought, he was not granting to women the, ‘right to choose.’ In Doe v Bolton, the second and often unexamined, companion decision, Blackmun is explicit.

The right he is granting is to the doctor. He wants to ensure that the doctor is not to be ‘under any cloud of possible prosecution.’ The ‘freedom to choose’ was granted to the physician, alone. For the highest tribunal of the most powerful nation on earth departed Western Civilization’s definitive moral stricture – the doctor was no longer constrained by the Hippocratic Oath to ‘never harm’ another human being; the doctor was free to kill. Medical ethics has never been the same and the repercussions are still being felt.

The rapid expansion of physician-assisted suicide laws and euthanasia practices is strong testament that medical killing is now nearly a ‘cultural norm.’ But at what cost? Dismissal of vulnerable human lives carries deep and wide implications. Medical rationing; age and social standing; social pressure and deliberate disregard; all carry a dramatic threat in the current practice of medicine. Unless directly addressed, the utilitarian dismissal of marginalized human lives will become an essential practice of modern medicine.

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