Human Exceptionalism

Bioethical Controversies Proof of Nearly Unbridgeable Cultural Chasm

To state the obvious, the USA is losing its common culture and moral values, creating an almost unbridgeable cultural chasm. This, in turn, is disintegrating our social cohesion and leading to the me-me/I-I consciousness of radical individualism.

But radical individualism is intended for only one side of the cultural divide until it becomes predominate and can gain control of society. When the other attempts to get in on the act–cohercion tends to rule. Case in point, the angry reaction against “pro life pharmacies” by some of the very people who yell the loudest about “pro choice” values, with some states outlawing the practice. From the story in the Washington Post:

When DMC Pharmacy opens this summer on Route 50 in Chantilly, the shelves will be stocked with allergy remedies, pain relievers, antiseptic ointments and almost everything else sold in any drugstore. But anyone who wants condoms, birth control pills or the Plan B emergency contraceptive will be turned away.

That’s because the drugstore, located in a typical shopping plaza featuring a Ruby Tuesday, a Papa John’s and a Kmart, will be a “pro-life pharmacy”–meaning, among other things, that it will eschew all contraceptives.The pharmacy is one of a small but growing number of drugstores around the country that have become the latest front in a conflict pitting patients’ rights against those of health-care workers who assert a “right of conscience” to refuse to provide care or products that they find objectionable.

Such stories call for quotes from bioethicists!

Bioethicists disagree about the pharmacies. Some [me: very few] argue that they are consistent with national values that accommodate a spectrum of beliefs. “In general, I think product differentiation expressive of differing values is a very good thing for a free, pluralistic society,” said Loren E. Lomasky, a bioethicist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. “If we can have 20 different brands of toothpaste, why not a few different conceptions of how pharmacies ought to operate?”

Others maintain that pharmacists, like other professionals, have a responsibility to put their patients’ needs ahead of their personal beliefs…Critics also worry that women might unsuspectingly seek contraceptives at such a store and be humiliated, or that women needing the morning-after pill, which is most effective when used quickly, may waste precious time. “Rape victims could end up in a pharmacy not understanding this pharmacy will not meet their needs,” Greenberger said. “We’ve seen an alarming development of pharmacists over the last several years refusing to fill prescriptions, and sometimes even taking the prescription from the woman and refusing to give it back to her so she can fill it in another pharmacy.”

Yet, in a seeming paradox, many of the anti pro life pharmacy advocates support futile care theory allowing doctor/bioethics committee values to trump those of patients by refusing wanted life-sustaining treatment, while pro life pharmacy supporters generally oppose medical futility on the grounds that doctors have no right to impose their values on patients.

But these seeming contradictions are not really paradoxical. Rather, they are in keeping with both sides’ overarching world views. Thus, pro life pharmacy proponents generally oppose futile care because their first principle is supporting the overarching Judeo/Christian philosophical belief in the sanctity of human life and a restrained approach to sexual morality.

Similarly, pro futile care advocates who oppose pro life pharmacies act consistent with their utilitarian (quality of life) beliefs and hedonistic devotion to utter nonjudgmentalism about personal behaviors between and among consenting adults.

But nature abhors a vacuum and the kind of cultural chaos all of this breeds cannot long be sustained. Eventually, as Lincoln put it about the great cultural divide of his time, we will either become all one side or the other. The cats will eventually be herded–both through laws passed by the states and decrees about these laws (or even in the absence of them) issued by judges. And we know which way, at least for now, the tide is running.

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