Physicians and Nurses Must Not Discriminate in Caring for Patients, Part I

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Physicians and Nurses as Collaborators in the Practice of Medicine

First Reason: A Common God-Creator

Before human beings become members of any religion, they come into the world as persons. Theologically speaking, all human beings are sacred persons, because they are made in “the image of God.” Ultimately, that is why physicians and nurses should care for other human beings, because they persons, and persons matter more than anything in all creation.

Thus, God created only one race, one humanity. In that sense, all human beings, regardless of their differences, are brothers and sisters, because they belong to the same human family. Because there is one human family, genocide is a moral abomination. For the same reason, racism, which is the denial of another human being’s humanity, is morally repugnant. For at the heart of all forms of genocide and racism is the belief that different groups of human beings are not fully human.

Second Reason: A Common Humanity

Another reason physicians and nurses, without discrimination, care for all patients, is that they are members of the human family. For example, the Declaration of Geneva or Geneva Code refers to the medical profession and may apply, in several respects, to nurses, particularly the section which says,

“I WILL NOT PERMIT considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient.”

What, then, in the natural (not spiritual) order of things unites human beings more than anything else? It is their common humanity! That is also why not only physicians and nurses, but all people must respect each other as human beings, even with all their religious differences.

Third Reason: A Moral Obligation as Physicians and Nurses

Practically speaking, physicians and nurses, as morally repugnant or distasteful as it may be to them, must, for example, care for serial killers, rapists and pedophiles. For example, on different occasions in the Nazi concentration camps, Viktor Frankl, a medical doctor, had to care for Nazi soldiers. But he did it because they were human beings, not because he liked them. Years later, he wrote,

“‘What is man that you are mindful of him?’ ‘He is a reed,’ said Pascal, ‘but a reed which thinks!’ And it is in this thinking, this consciousness, this responsibility that constitute the dignity of man, the dignity of each individual human being. And it is always to be ascribed to the individual person whether he preserves this dignity or tarnishes it.”

Caring for racists and murderers in no way is an endorsement of their behavior. Rather, it is ascribing to such patients the human dignity of being persons. At the essence of health care, then, is the non-discriminatory discharge of the duty of physicians and nurses to care for their patients, treating them as human being beings, persons.

Endnote

Viktor E. Frankl, Psychotherapy and Existentialism: Selected Papers on Logotherapy (New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1967), pp. 110-111.

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