by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Twenty years ago, the physician Sally Satel argued in her book PC M.D. that political correctness had taken over medicine. PC M.D. described a lowering of standards to increase doctor diversity, the blithe use of dubious “recovered memories” in sexual-abuse allegations, and the endorsement for political reasons of questionable techniques such as “therapeutic touch.” Some of these concerns no longer have much purchase in our common cultural conversation. But Satel’s larger point continues to resonate: Politics, and especially leftist political theories emanating from the universities, can interfere with the practice of medicine in a deleterious way.
These days, the problem is not “politically correct” medicine, but “woke” medicine. PC’s impact on medicine was real, and worrisome, but the current fear is that PC’s implications could pale before woke’s troubling impositions, which are more intensive in both scale and scope across multiple sectors in health care.
To what extent is ideology influencing the medical field?
The first question is whether wokeness is directing doctors to treat patients unequally. Wokeness at its heart looks at intersectionality and judges people’s merits and worth on their place along the spectrum of oppression. This pernicious concept means that those with more claims to historic oppression should be granted preferable treatment over those with fewer claims—with white “cisnormative” males having none of said claims. The enshrinement of this concept contravenes the foundational principles enshrined in the Hippocratic Oath, the ethic that has guided medical practice for millennia.
The Hippocratic Oath does not actually say, “First, do no harm.” What it does say is this: “Into whatever homes I go, I will enter them for the benefit of the sick.” It specifically directs doctors to avoid the mistreatment of patients, “whether they are free men or slaves.” The practical effects of this doctrine are extraordinary.