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Ever since the University of Louisville announced the planned merger of University Hospital with Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's HealthCare and St. Joseph Health System of Lexington, there has been a veritable flood of letters to the editor and other public commentary in opposition to the notion that Louisville’s “general hospital” will be forced to adopt a set of ethical standards which liberals find distasteful.  Folks who haven’t the slightest clue about the financial dynamics of operating a major metropolitan teaching hospital—most with barely-concealed anti-Catholic bias—are more than willing to share their umbrage with anyone who will listen.

But the noisy public debate is merely a surrogate for the underlying religious and philosophical tension:  This fight is all about sterilization, euthanasia, and publicly funded abortion.

Of course the anti-merger activists attempt to drown the discussion in euphemisms.  Terms like vasectomy, tubal ligation, sterilization, and morning-after-pill abortificant are eschewed, in favor of “reproductive freedom.”  Euthanasia is never mentioned; the term of art is “end of life decisions.”  Millennia of ethical, moral, and religious consensus are swept aside in this debate, by folks who cringe at the thought that their absolute authority over deciding the fate of their unborn child (or comatose Grandmother, for that matter) might somehow be limited by a set of ethical guidelines.

Doctor.gifAbout 400 years before the birth of Christ, a Greek physician named Hippocrates came up with a short ethical statement which medical students took as an oath, immediately prior to entering the medical profession (No, it never said First, do no harm.”).  The 2000 year tradition of doctors taking this oath was ended in the mid 1970’s, at the suggestion of the American Medical Association.  Today, most liberals will find the Hippocratic Oath amusingly anachronistic:

“I will follow that system or regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider to be for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked nor suggest any such counsel, and in like manner I will not give to a woman the means to produce an abortion. Whenever I go into a house, I will go for the benefit of the sick and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption, and further, from the seduction of females or males, whether freemen or slaves. Whatever, in connection with my professional practice, I see or hear which ought not to be spoken abroad, I will keep secret. So long as I continue to carry out this oath unviolated, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art, respected by all men in all times, but should I violate this oath, may the reverse be my lot.”

One can easily guess at the reasons behind the A.M.A.’s reluctance to continue recommending this time-honored oath (probably the quaint reference to doctors making house calls).  Unfortunately, “…respected by all men in all times…” is in the process of being supplanted by “…may the reverse be my lot.”

Obama Health Care Adviser: Doctors Take the Hippocratic Oath Too Seriously

The present brouhaha over the merger of University Hospital with the dreaded Catholics and their atavistic notions regarding the sanctity of human life, merely illustrates the myriad problems which can arise when the medical profession abandons all pretense to ethical standards.

Smelling blood in the water, the usual agglomeration of liberal politicians are tripping over one another to lead (or to be seen to lead) the nascent anti-merger protest movement.  Louisville Metro Council members Tina Ward-Pugh (Dem., 9th Dist.), Vicki Aubrey Welch (Dem., 13th Dist.), and Marianne Butler (Dem., 15th Dist.) signed a petition that appeared as a half-page advertisement in the Courier-Journal, protesting the hospital merger and claiming it will “stop vital medical procedures” for residents in the area.

Also signing the newspaper advert were state representatives Mary Lou Marzian (Dem., Louisville), Joni Jenkins (Dem., Louisville), Ruth Ann Palumbo (Dem., Lexington), and state Sen. Denise Harper Angel (Dem., Louisville).

Kentucky’s Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway pledged to look into the merger, and Louisville’s Democratic Mayor, Greg Fischer, met with U of L President James Ramsey “to share his concerns” that doctors might start “complying with Catholic policies.”  Even Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has indicated a desire to inject his office into the merger controversy.

All of these politicians seem to believe that University Hospital is a public institution; despite the fact that U of L officials say it is private because it is managed by the nonprofit University Medical Center Inc., and not by a government agency.  University Hospital chief executive officer James Taylor said in a letter to The Courier-Journal that the hospital is not public, stating that "neither I nor any of my fellow 3,000 employees are employed by the government or the university."  Taylor's letter said UMC owns the license to operate the hospital.

One is compelled to wonder at the reaction Hippocrates might have to all this insanity. 

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Louisville.com's The Arena section features opinions from active participants in the city's politics. Their viewpoints are not those of Louisville.com (a website is an inanimate object and, as such, has no opinions).

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Thomas McAdam's picture

About Thomas McAdam

At various times I have been a student, a soldier, a college Political Science teacher, a political campaign treasurer, and legal adviser to Louisville's Police Department and Board of Aldermen. I now practice law and share my political opinions with anyone who will listen.

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