The politicization of medicine is cogently discussed by Dr. Thomas Huddle. See here for an abstract of his article.
First, with the publication of the Charter, Professionalism in the New Millennium
in 2002 the notion of social justice was injected into the listing of
attributes and behaviors that physicians should exhibit to act
professionally.Rather than a well reasoned and documented argument for such action being presented by the authors, we saw a series of gratuitous assertions.
Subsequently a commitment to social
justice was declared to be an ethical imperative in the American College
of Physicians' (ACP) ethics manual. Other professional organizations
followed suit pledging at least rhetorical support of the inclusion of
social justice into their ethical propositions.
Dr Huddle, who teaches at University of Alabama Medical School at Birmingham, says in part:
1) civic virtues are outside the professional realm, (2) even if civic
virtues were professionally obligatory, it is unclear that civic
participation is necessary for such virtue, and (3) the profession of
medicine ought not to require any particular political stance of its
"Advocacy on behalf of societal goals... is inevitably political".
civil virtues are outside of the professional realm" and " the
profession of medicine ought not to require any political stance".
a commitment to social justice is clearly political and requires
physicians to take a particular political stance and a particular philosophical position..Advocacy for social
justice is one feature of the modern liberal or progressive political
stance.Such advocacy is not typically part of the conservative political
viewpoint or the libertarian ( aka classical liberal) position.
notion of justice upon which which the country was founded was that of
the justice embodied in the rule of law,i.e. treating everyone equally
under the law. The foundational notion of the social justice line of
thinking is essentially that treating folks who are unequal equally is
unfair and unjust and therefor there must be societal ( i.e governmental) effort to
mitigate inequality by re-distributional and other coercive efforts of the state.
physicians who authored the Charter and the ACP's new ethics would
appear to be of the progressive belief system while there are many
physicians in the country who are not. A small group of what I have
labeled as the "medical progressive elite" have seemingly captured the
conversation and are attempting to profoundly alter traditional medical
ethics.To the extent that they and similar minded individuals set the
agenda of major medical professional organizations and medical students
education they may have succeed. but I wonder how many practicing
physicians are even aware of the views that they pretend to be a settled
Why would such an effort be launched and well funded ? Who gains from efforts to bring about a sea change in traditional medical ethics? The answer to that may be found in the plan that the elite medical progressives later introduced to enable practicing physicians to on a day by day basis practice social justice.Simple they just had to follow guidelines .In that way there would be an alleged greater benefit to the collective -although sometimes at the expense of the individual patient-and presto we have a utilitarian form of social justice with the collective and of course third party payers benefiting.Is this the "why"?
Note: An shorter version of this essay had been published previously. I redo it now because sadly a version of social justice seems to be firmly appended to medical ethics,on paper if not in practice and few voices are heard in opposition.I find physicians believing that they should work for the good of the group or the collective or society a very frightening notion, one with a slippery slope as evidenced by what went on in collectivist societies in the last century.