This article is not specifically restricted to those particular physicians who take the Hippocratic Oath. Rather it seeks to uncover one thing, which is the integrity and ethical approach that physicians in our modern context use to justify how they practice as a professional in their field. In other words not all physicians take the Hippocratic Oath but to some extent there inevitably must be a common ethic that most physicians are called to or see themselves striving to accomplish. The conclusion that there must be a common goal among most physicians is based on the fact that physicians are to care for their patients. And therein lies the key word, care. Should be a no brainier. Should be.
Care could mean a variety of things but as it is applied to physician care we generally paint a picture of what this type of assistance might look like between patient and physician. Upon the canvas we might see depicted the patient and the physician in mellow chatter or discussing the most grave of matters. But the demeanor of the physician is hardly one of a big headed ego versus the weak and in need patient. No, what we see is concern, honesty, and hopefulness to restoring health. In short, human life is valuable and physicians are charged to use their talents and skills to preserve life, grant peace of mind, and act with integrity. They see each human being as valuable and avoid at all costs harm for that very patient. Care for the patient only makes sense if they are valuable.
Without getting too in depth on animal rights, it might also be constructive to ponder what inherent traits are normally common among humans and animals and ask whether these affect how one understands their place in the world. The comparison of our natures is helpful in our discernment of the incredible value of human life.
So, to compare, many functions such as deductive reasoning are important and distinctive to human beings whereas any other animal is highly restricted in making decisions based upon logic but rather they act within their animal nature or instinct. It should be recognized that animals have their place in the world but they are restricted by their nature as we are restricted by ours. While they may be inherently undomesticated, humans are inherently domesticated in that we have the ability to think and reason in a far more gifted way than that of any other animal. God has created man over other animals but also charged man to be good (reasonable) stewards of these animals.
But it is important to make this clarification: a human’s ability and motive to function is, at its core, only important when comparing the superiority of human life to that of any other animal. Meaning this, that human life is in its nature distinctively more important than that of any other animal, first in the worldly sense, because the confines of their nature do not supersede that of humans (i.e. they do not logically reason as we do). And, second, because God specifically placed man over all other creation as a steward. For if any other animal reasoned as we did they might be above us and in charge of being a steward over us, but this is obviously not the case and very evident in our efforts toward being God’s stewards of the earth’s animals and at the same time an integrity to our fellow human beings. Function is used to make the case that humans have a more valuable nature than that of animals, but let it be clear that when comparing human life to human life it does not follow sound reason or logic to use function as a means of distinguishing two individual humans, because both share the same nature. Therefore, since they share the same nature in that they are both human it must be concluded that both individual humans are equally valuable despite their size (i.e. embryo or adult), level of development (i.e. age), environment (i.e. in or out of the womb), and degree of dependency (i.e. a new born needing her guardian or an elderly person needing assistance).
And so it is with these conclusions in mind that we come to a horrific discovery about human life at its earliest stage. We know that life begins at conception which any embryology textbook can describe, that the life of a human is valuable in its very nature, and that nature is supreme above all other life (although with authority comes responsibility). So why is it that the United States and other countries around the world negate their responsibilities and contradict their nature and those fellow human beings that hold their very same nature? There are many answers to that question but two that stand out are convenience and greed. It is convenient to easily remove an unplanned pregnancy by simply aborting that child and it is the greed of abortion factions that disguise their rhetoric with the facade of care in order to draw in supporters. Abortion physicians and operators endorse an ideology that clashes with the reality that the care they are giving is actually care they are removing. These physicians and operators in abortion clinics may believe that they are helping the woman by removing an inconvenient mass of tissue but in truth they are acting against their own nature in assisting any mother by removing her motherhood, that is, her child.
Physicians are called to grant care for their patient but what about the patient’s unborn child? Yes, them too, for the unborn are human and share in the human nature, not to mention that the embryo is uniquely growing into a person of a particular blood type, sex, and fingerprint (among other things). They are their own person! Anyone then who aborts an unborn child is unjustified in their action to do so unless the mother’s life is at risk. And in that situation no solution is the correct one, for either way a life will be taken. But justification for this uneasy choice is made not on the bases of one being more human than the other but because either choice unavoidably results in a death. It is then the inherent call of human nature that urges physicians to conduct themselves appropriately toward the unborn and born alike to regard the embryo to aged adult the dignity and acknowledgement of human life.
1) Scott Klusendorf, The Case for Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 28.
2) See T.W. Sadler, Langman’s Embryology, 5th ed. (Philadelphia: W.B. Sauders, 1993).