COVID-19 Actions May Violate Medical Ethics and Civil Liberties

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COVID-19 Actions May Violate Medical Ethics and Civil Liberties

Public health law developed as a response to potential bioterrorism as with weaponized smallpox. But its grant of arbitrary power to government officials creates many conflicts with civil liberties and medical ethics, writes bioethicist and immunologist Jeffrey Hall Dobken, M.D., M.P.H., in the summer issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.

Dr. Dobken explains how the existing laws allow pressure on governments to take drastic actions that might sweep away the rule of law in the midst of panic or uncertainty, for example requiring physicians to act as police, while limiting treatment decisions and eliminating requirements for informed consent.

“Unlike in the 19th century, we recognize that autonomy in medical decision-making is essential for both physician and patient. All Americans today have the right to refuse examination and treatment. In 21st century America, citizens should be able to consult the physician of their choice, and the method and means of treatment appropriate to their circumstances, such as off-label use of a medication recommended by their physician,” he writes.

Similarly, physicians need to be “unencumbered by arbitrary administrative code promulgated by non-medical bureaucrats based primarily on statistical assessments.”

For COVID-19, rather than simply offering help and information for dealing with the disease, government agencies have limited testing and restricted use of medications such as hydroxychloroquine, denying autonomy to both patients and physicians, Dr. Dobken notes.

Public health authorities, he concludes, “should abide by the same ethical standards to which all the healing arts are held.”

The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons is published by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a national organization representing physicians in all specialties since 1943.

Read Full Article: https://jpands.org/vol25no2/dobken.pdf

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