What a Critique of Secular Medicine Gets Right, and What It Misses

Nov. 18 2021

In his recent book Losing Our Dignity, Charles Camosy, a Catholic, examines certain disturbing trends in medicine and bioethics regarding children born with severe congenital illnesses, adults suffering from brain damage, and other difficult cases and attributes them to what he terms “the secularization of medicine.” Devorah Goldman writes in her review:

Camosy makes a forceful case that an “irreligious understanding of medicine” has contributed to a distorted view of what makes life worth living. Medical systems often operate on the belief that life can be measured along material lines, dismissing the idea that human life is inherently sacred. In such cases, people who are chronically ill, disabled, or elderly are not given the same consideration as those with the potential to contribute materially to society.

Respecting life at different stages, though, is not the same thing as arriving at a common understanding of death. This is one wrinkle in the book: as technologies for sustaining human organs and basic functions (including breathing) have improved, it has become more challenging to identify death, particularly in cases of catastrophic brain injury. This is less a question of equal care than of life itself, and of our capacity to know when it is over.

Camosy rightfully skewers the [British National Health Service’s] “quality-adjusted life year system,” . . . which is used to determine “whether a treatment or intervention’s cost can be justified.” The NHS employs a tortured calculation based in part on how long a person might be expected to live after receiving treatment, as well as (in the NHS’s language) his “ability to carry out the activities of daily life, and freedom from pain and mental disturbance.” This arbitrary and materialist approach to healthcare places elderly and disabled people at risk of being rejected wholesale by the UK’s medical system.

But in placing all the blame for such grotesqueries on a single trend in a single discipline—bioethics—Camosy misses the broader picture. Specifically, he does not adequately acknowledge how this academic attitude is driven by, or at least interacts with, the political and technological realities of modern medicine.

Read more at American Purpose

More about: Medicine, Secularism

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy