Monday, December 6, 2010

Was Hitler more ethical than you?

Today I learned the most ethical person in the 20th century was probably Adolf Hitler. The entire class was as shocked as I was, but in the end, we all agreed with the professor lecturing us. You might be surprised why...

Ethics and morals are important to Health Activists because they help to determine how we present a topic and what the reader will get from what we've written. Do you know the difference between the two?

I thought I did. Here is a little of how it was presented in our class:

Have you ever thought about the two? How about these questions...

Is it ethical/moral to eat meat?
Is human euthanasia ever ethical/moral?
Is it ethical/moral to put a cat through chemotherapy?
Is it ethical/moral to put a child through chemotherapy?

Ethics and morality are actually worlds apart. Someone who is ethical follows what they believe. They are true to those beliefs no matter what, even if those beliefs may seem crazy to someone else. They may not believe the same thing as someone else - one society may be for something that another society in another part of the world thinks is terrible, but both can be ethical.

Morality is the difference between right and wrong. Ethics is what you do with those beliefs. For example, if you believe it is wrong to eat meat, then when you eat it you are not being ethical.

With that in mind, what do you think now of Hitler's ethics? He believed devoutly that what he was doing was the "right thing", and he did it with brutal consistency.

What he was doing was not moral - it was horribly, terribly wrong and all of your guts told you that as soon as you read the title to this post. But for all his brutal flaws... Adolf Hitler was very ethical.

As Health Activists, we have many options... we can choose to write about something, or not. We can be ethical in what we're writing because we write what we believe at the time, but that doesn't mean we are always right.

Make me a liar...

How do you handle your topics when you're writing? Do you only write about things in which you agree 100%? Do you present both sides fairly? Is that moral? Is that ethical? Isn't that one of the reasons we try to generate discussions in our communities, to explore by seeing what other opinions are? Are you genuine in helping other Health Activists by commenting and participating in these explorations?

As Health Activists, do you think we are bound by the principal to present the facts and only the facts, or should we interject our own opinion into what we are saying? If you present a subject in which you are passionate, how do you handle this?

I handle it by always trying to tell myself, "Okay Health Activist Ellen... make me a liar."

I think this is vitally important because I am not in the business of making news, but writing about it. But I am also in the business of telling my opinion because I am experienced, and patients value and want to read about experiences.

It's difficult for me to write without bias because I am intimately embroiled in the topics I discuss. I am more passionate however, about writing both sides and representing them fairly. I try to present the other side with as much passion as I genuinely feel for "my" side. You know what happens? When I do that with honesty, I often find myself with the need to really reflect on my position, and feeling just as passionate for the other side! What do you think that says about my ethics? morals?

Comment by Janeen on December 6, 2010 at 5:31pm
Great post Ellen! There have been several topics here on WEGO Health that I have not jumped into the discussion on because of my "ethics and morals". The topics were fantastic health conversations but not ones that ethically I felt that I could be a part of even though part of me felt a moral obligation to do so. My feelings on the topics run very deep. And I do believe that I am right. But not everyone shares my opinion. Because I was unable to take on both sides fairly, I decided it was best for me to back off. I didn't feel that I had anything constructive to add to the conversation so I felt that I had a "moral" obligation to let the conversation take shape without my voice in it.
I try desperately to share my views on subjects I am passionate about from both sides. And I love that WEGO Health is a forum where we are safe to discuss health topics passionately from all sides.
I think most of us find it difficult to write without bias. Some of my best writing comes when I write straight from the heart. I can't be unbiased there.
Thanks for bringing up this topic. This is one I'll be pondering for a while.
Comment by BigSis D2HGA on December 7, 2010 at 2:45am
Combating bias is one of my downfalls as I tend to vent. Based on my personal experience though I try to always add the positive. Outrage and anger was the appropriate response in some of my situations and that of several friends in whom we bonded to each other by the same issues and experience that come into play. Over all, I've had good doctors. One thing that has been difficult to overcome in the medical world and social society is the stigmatism "mentally retarded" or "retarded."
"Retarded" is a word which meaning has been changed over the years through society and used in a denegrating manner and begins even in childhood on the playground. "you retard!" or "that's retarded." At this date, if you are "retarded" you are not a transplant candidate. The quality of life doesn't not come into play, only mental acuity. Very sad but true.
There was an outcry when found that an institute used patients for experimentations. And there were those who were sterilized. This is not a new practice. I collect antique books. One book I have was published in the 30's. They describe a "idiot" and a "criminal" and other descriptions of someone who has mental health or intellectual handicaps. Their solution was if you are a habitual criminal, you must be sterilized so this isn't passed on to children. "Idiots" must be sterilized. There wer other "solutions" to make an end to this problem. It's not just "retarded" that people turn into social stigmas. "Gay" no longer means happy, carefree. A Faggot is actually a bundle of wood. A fag in England is a cigarette. But, society twisted those words to imply something as a label and as a social pariah. Our ethics have been dirtied by twisted words and our morals are generally estabished by the society in which we live. Since our ethics are born by our moral convictions then I have to look back to the root of those convictions. I find I am of wrong mind set in some things and wrong on the others. Like you said Janeen, it's hard not to "speak" without bias. When it comes to some of the things I've seen and felt it's very difficult for me to not be judgemental in addition to biased. At the same time, I think that views on different subjects are productive and passion and conviction is the well of truth to our idealism..that's where our personal ethics, to me, are born. I can't wait for you to write more. And I know that whether I would or wouldn't agree with what you might say would still enjoy your voice. (if you tell me to shut up...I won't be offended! I admit I am an old windbag, long winded..I should have played bagpipes).
Ellen, I love your post. Both of you have given me food for thought this week and I am so glad to have the opportunity to read your posts. Ethics, moral and medical, isn't an easy subject because our objectivity is different in any given situation.
I have always adamantly believed that prejudice is born of fear, misunderstanding and ignorance. It's a learned trait. Physical handicaps, sexual orientation proved to be genetic, intellectual handicaps from brain injuries whether disease or injury, epilepsy, ADD, ADHD, all these are handicapping by the stigmas society has placed upon them.
The horse came before the cart in looking at the antique books with the fixes of our world by eliminating the "criminal" "retard" "idiot" "dullard", etc. shows that. We are just now taking the lights from under the bushels. Today, some people are still afraid to take their handicapped children out into public. Some resent questions. Most of us love it when someone walks up and asks questions. This is a start of education.
The title of the book I have? I believe it is "Moral Values for Modern Day Men." What isn't learned by myself is control of my own bias and emotions. I never liked to show emotion because to me I felt it was showing weakness. I still have some problems being expressive in person. For some reason, I can be in written words. Perhaps because in the heat of the moment I find that I can talk with without restraint. You can indeed be profound without being profane and I can be very firm and without violence! (no matter how a mental vision of a well-placed smack makes me this I would be a liar to say otherwise)
It is more, I think, that people don't wait for me to have to take a breath to get a word in edgewise. When you feel so strongly about an issue, it's hard not to talk at the same time!! This is my first time on this site. I haven't had a chance to explore it yet and hope that I have an opportunity soon to do so fully. I don't want to just vent. I do have some experiences to impart that perhaps may or may not help someone else and I am looking for the wonderful people here I know that I am going to meet that will help me by teaching me something new or support in a common cause or problem. And when I'm on a soapbox someone to share it with and someone who can freely debate (without hostility) an opposing point a view which without no one learns, agree or not.

My promise at this point is from hereon I will be less verbose and write small short paragraphs instead of chapters and volumes.

I must add a very happy "p.s." After lobbying not just in the US but also Canada and other countries, the U.S. passed a bill prohibiting the term "retarded" on a person's medical, state or school records. What this will mean in the future for special needs that have been affected by being "retarded" (I have some physicians who call my daughter's handicaps a "profound mental and evelopmental delays"...I like and endorse that, it's the truth) remains to be seen. Children with her type of disease often need transplantation of either liver, kidneys or both. The fact that she has more than one genetic disorder may come into effect. But now the label "retarded" should not. I have a very fine genetic/bone & joint fellow in Houston who is willing to take on my daughter's rare bone disease and is prepared to do radiation therapy if the tumors in her long bones show signs of growing malignant and a dermatologist who is ready to take action should any of her pre-malignant melanomas which is her other rare disorder show any changes. These are the doctors whose dedication, ethics, and compassion I have seen for more than 19 years now. For a child who would not live to be 4 months old, that's amazing. These are the doctors who have supported her, and us, and have helped her continue to thrive. The rest has been her fortitude, her determance to do things and at least attempt it when her body doesn't always comply. These are the physicians who see this in her and have never written her off, while so many others have. Our genetic/metabolic doctor told me once "if it won't hurt to try if it may help, we'll do it...but, the rule is to first do no harm." That is his ethical stance and a healthy one I think. What more can you ask for..a doctor who listens, discusses, and it being a two sided discussion, willing to try things on practical observation at home....what more can you ask for! My idea of good medical ethics and care. (run on sentences even...sorry!) It is that which when I see poor medical practice and ethics are colored more deeply and I feel more acutely when it is such a stark contrast to all the good care we have gotten that I can't seem to shut up.
Comment by Ellen S on December 7, 2010 at 12:06pm
BigSis D2HGA I think you should blog more frequently about these issues. You speak from the heart and from experience which is valuable in the real world...
Comment by Amy K on December 11, 2010 at 9:04pm
Very interesting topic Ellen. Thanks for the great food for thought.

As a Health Activist I am pretty tied to my passions and my own personal ethics, but I also believe in being a moral person. Most of the time I am able to have discussions without getting bothered by other people's ideas of what is/is not moral. Alicia's recent post about Komen comes to mind, I felt what they are doing is morally wrong and my ethics were at the root of my rant! Am I right or wrong? I don't know for sure, but it feels good to be able to voice my opinions knowing that others will respect it, leave it if they don't like it, and share their own, as well.
I think activism is usually about living out our ethics. Being a reporter and sharing the facts is a part of it as well. I believe in our community, it's okay to share my passions and the topics I feel ethically tied to, as long as I always do so respectfully, and that's another moral issue or is it ethical? LOL.
Comment by Ellen S on December 12, 2010 at 1:14am
Great question!!!  Morally, I believe you are right, and ethically I do try to practice that myself.  But I also believe it's morally responsible to show both sides of the coin, so I try to do that too because morally I feel that responsibility and act on it because of my ethics.

There are so many sides to these questions, I fear we could go on and on!!

Comment by BigSis D2HGA on December 14, 2010 at 9:17pm
Repectfulness, Compassion, Empathy, Dignity, Humor, Willingness to Hear and be Heard.
 I've often seen ethics become a bone of contention where neither party agree to disagree.  Quite frankly, it makes me crazy!  Mainly because I see it as counterproductive and something that can become prejudicial.   Even when being seriously adamant about our passions, pros and cons I think we also need to maintain an element of sense of humor and grace to tone it down.   Otherwise, don't chew that bone.   In my family it is politics..and today medical ethics are politically motivated.  I see things that make common sense, some that do not.   Where is the meeting place of sanity?
      The fine points of what is beneficial to each individual need is the building block of my idea of what educational/political/medical ethics should be.

Do pounce on "my idea of what....ethics should be."
        The point of this when speaking of morals, ethics...our responsibilities to follow up on our belief?   I took a teacher by the hand to teach him how to teach my child.   Despite criticism for keeping her out of an inclusive environment, while she was in a special needs classroom she was benefiting.   She wasn't in a room outside of the rain learning what rain meant.   When she was in a special educational room she was told "the sun is shining today," etc.
       In pointedly ostracized (sp...sorry) for my ethics when it comes to Special Education and Inclusion, I don't feel that either side was morally or ethically wrong.  .  I think we have to demonstrate our ethics in a way that is productive without being critical, knowing that idealism is diverse by our perception, by looking at one thing in a different aspect - even if just one facet - and respecting the other for it.   Because it is (or should be) a learning experience and a way of garnering understanding on both sides.   However, that wasn't the ethical thing for me to do.  It wasn't with the program.   It wasn't right for me to place my child in a inclusionary setting just to prove a point.   I stepped out of the realm of ethical argument of inclusion within a classroom setting to where there was benefit.
        Hitler's only had one ethical trait...his own.  When blinded by prejudice and fear is essentially the same morality that Hitler upheld.  How far back did Hitler learn his prejudice and under what circumstance.   A physician pledges to first do no harm.   There is a definitive credo of medical ethics.  What a can of worms we can open up!   Political, Educational, Medical, and Religious ethics.   Where the line should be drawn, how we voice our beliefs hinges on respect for each other and a willingness to listen and be heard.  Dignity is another word that comes to mind.    Pride is another.
          There was a word that I kept reaching for in my mind that summed up everything I think when it comes to our different views of what is and is not ethical or moral.   When scrambling eggs for Sherry's supper tonight it came to mind.   Tolerance.    When it offends me on a moral and emotional basis as to what I feel is right or wrong.   I speak out and if the offense is great enough, I'm going to act.   This is a reaction that I call human nature.   Medical ethics have been in play since biblical times.    What is fascinating to see is while as a patient, I wasn't able to file complaint as to the ethics of patient dumping.....I heard my child's pediatrician threaten another physian with report of patient dumping should admittance and care be refused.   So ethics in this particular instance of my own and our physician were the same.  (I did say she'd been medically dumped a few times?  She was not in this hospitalization.)   "Seizure patients with seizures are not hospitalized for seizures."  But, when off of base-line continuous back-to-back seizures should be and not a decision for a Gastro-Interologist.    We were, reluctantly, admitted and from that point on received sub-standard care.  She was dismissed, still in active seizures, with a resting heart rate of 160 bpm and MRSA.  We were back in the hospital within an hour of returning home (after an retched anxious 4 hour drive) and then transferred to a higher-grade facility by ambulance from there.    So, there were ethical violations on several points by one physician, carried over to the floor which carried over in the medical stability of my child (being their patient) which was not only fed by bias but fueled as well by an ethics tort by another physician!   There were two with ethics, the third I think without or just a different view?
          Question:  Separation of conviction and there any?   Is it how they formed?   What do we do about learned behaviors of others when we are acting on our own?    Medical Ethics is something that has a unilateral ethical basis.  Mixed with personal bias those ethics can go out the window.   It becomes not a matter of ethics but rather the lack of?  Stepping outside of morality, of ethics, when a person has no convicitions, no sense of morality and is self-serving how can there be ethics?
         I've been in a rut of type, edit, erase...for a while now and can't think of a summation.  I don't think that there is any!!

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