The spate of doctor bashing that started with the publication of the Tan Tock Seng Hospital study continues in today's Straits Times.
While I have some reservations about the methodology of the study and conclusions drawn, I don't necessarily disagree with the overall impression that ethics and professionalism has become somewhat lax. Nevertheless, I do feel the doctor bashing is somewhat unfortunate and unfair because I think this phenomenon is really a function of the general decline in ethics and professionalism across much of Singapore society. It is quite unfair to just single out the medical profession. I mean, the lawyers, engineers, accountants, businessmen are probably as bad, if not worse. But perhaps this is only because the issues of ethics and professionalism is most visible for the medical profession. And it is easy to bash doctors.
The degeneration in our value systems, is a societal one, and which begins in early development - at homes and in schools. To finger the medical school as being responsible somehow for this decline is probably quite misguided.
There is also a facile and wrong perspective that this can be corrected by giving 'x' numbers of ethics lectures in the school. This does nothing but comfort the educators that they are doing something....or at least can appear to the public to be doing something. In the Singapore culture, we have become quite good at 'talking ethics'. Oh yes, we have ethics committees and we publish guidelines, and can satisfy all the accrediting authorities that we are an ethical nation. But I seriously question if we are truly an ethical people, or just a simulate of an ethical people.
This is not an unimportant issue because we have many medical challenges on the horizon that will test the very core of our ethics. And we need to be ready. Human experimentation is already upon us. And so is experimentation on the embryo. The balloons for organ trading and euthanasia have already been floated by the Minister of Health. Is our ethics environment ready for these? Or will we be apathetically lulled into thinking everything is ok because all we need is to simulate being ethical?
We need our society to start practicing ethics, and stop being so pragmatic. I was going to say we should stop just discussing ethics as if it were an academic subject, but the truth is that we aren't even doing that. Where are all our wonderful ethicists? Why aren't they in the public domain, discussing and educating us? Why do they just hide in the comfort of committees, only to periodically issue politically correct position papers?
We desperately need a serious cultural reboot.
See previous post: 'Are we an ethical society?'
6 years ago