Paul Hsieh’s OpEd “ObamaCare vs the Hippocratic Oath”

19 03 2010

Paul Hsieh has written a very good article demonstrating how government control of health/medical services effectively removes the ability of health practitioners to live up to the principles of the Hippocratic Oath. 

I thought this article was interesting for a secondary reason.  Lately I’ve coincidentally been thinking that the Hippocratic Oath contradicts the precautionary principle
ie: the original form of the oath states: (according to this Wikipedia entry)

“I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone”

The precautionary principle in terms of politics means government action based on incomplete knowledge.  Government restrictions based on unevaluated and unexamined consequences – and it doesn’t take an Einstein to realise government control and restrictions can potentially be incredibly harmful.  Methinks we should be cautious about implementing the precautionary principle!  The government should ideally “never do harm to anyone” as long as we’re talking about decent, law abiding citizens like most people are. 

It seems to me like the precautionary principle has invaded the epistemologies of many people these days.  eg/ I hate cliches such as someone ringing up a talkback radio host and asserting that X legislation will be worth it if it “just saves one life”.  Assuming of course X legislation even has the ability to save that one life and forgetting about the lives that are negatively impacted by the legislation. 
Bans on GM food, effective bans on DDT, recommendations to lower cholesterol in diets and climate change legislation all rest on very shaky science to say the least and are just some examples. 

All human activity entails risk.  These days it’s easy to imagine that planes would never be allowed to be developed.  Occupational health and safety anyone?  Penicillin kills rodents.  Would penicillin pass the Therapeutic goods administration’s required animal trials these days?  Would Marie Curie be allowed to perform the immensely valuable research she and others performed on radioactive substances?  What about the discovery of anesthetics where researchers experimented on themselves and their colleagues?  etc etc

The precautionary principle effectively maintains the status quo and expands government power.  Ultimately this principle when applied to politics results in a massive loss in potential to improve human life.

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