Mayor Bloomberg: Let Them Suffer? The Perils of Secularist Humanism
There is an alternative. It is Christian humanism
". . . so you didn't get enough painkillers and you did have to suffer a little bit. . . ," Mayor Bloomberg said in response to criticism of his initiative to limit the use of painkillers at public hospitals.What arrogance! I find it hard to imagine that Bloomberg knows more than doctors about when and how much pain medication is appropriate to prescribe to their patients.
Based on an article in the Politicker by Colin Campbell, Bloomberg made the following comments on his weekly radio show: "The city hospitals we control, so . . . we're going to do it. . . . [S]upposing it is really true [that there will not be enough painkillers for the poor], so [they] didn't get enough painkillers and [they] did have to suffer a little bit. . . ."
What arrogance! I find it hard to imagine that Bloomberg knows more than doctors about when and how much pain medication is appropriate to prescribe to their patients. Doctors have the education and expertise to administer medication; Bloomberg does not. The doctors actually meet with the patient and examine the patient; Bloomberg does not.
It is disturbing to hear an elected official talk like this about his constituents. They are people, not objects. Even more disturbing is that this kind of attitude appears to be in line with many other political leaders throughout the country, including President Obama.
During a forum at the White House on healthcare reform in the summer of 2009, Jane Sturm asked President Obama the following question: "Outside the medical criteria for prolonging life for somebody who is elderly, is there any consideration that can be given for a certain spirit, a certain joy of living, a quality of life, or is it just a medical cutoff at a certain age?"
She was referring to a situation that involved her elderly mother. Her mother needed a pacemaker, but the first doctor her mother saw did not want to do the surgery because of her mother's age. Jane's mother wanted the surgery, so she went to another doctor. Based on his examination of her, he agreed to do it. As of 2009, five years later, Jane's mother was still alive.
Obama's response to Jane's question was as follows: "I don't think that we can make judgments based on people's 'spirit.' . . . I think we have to have rules . . . . Maybe you're better off, uh, not having the surgery, but, uh, taking the painkiller." With all due respect, Mr. President, as with the mayor, you are not in a position to make medical judgments. And the rules are not yours to make. That is above your pay grade.
Mayor Bloomberg's and President Obama's comments are significant on multiple levels, but I would like to explore just one: the kind of secularist humanism that lies beneath these comments and seems so popular today.
When we hear the word "humanism," we might think of concern for the needs and welfare of people or compassion for their suffering. However it is not that simple. Humanism means different things to different people, so does their understanding of compassion and suffering it seems.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union defines humanism as a "democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality."
This definition is incoherent and misleading. It is describing secular humanism, which is probably the most accurate description of humanism today. Secular humanism is concerned with more than the needs and welfare of people or their suffering: It is a world view based on postmodern beliefs, and it is highly political. Many of its adherents seek distributive justice and inclusiveness. They "presume[ ] an advocacy role for [h]umanists towards species governance, and this proactive stance is charged with a commensurate responsibility surpassing that of individual [h]umanism."
Some people might consider this to be a higher ethic, but I do not. As I understand this notion of humanism, which has been influenced by Marxism, it lowers the human person to the level of animals and environmental issues and raises social problems above individual persons. It turns people and their problems into abstractions, that is, academic problems to be solved by intellectuals, executed by politicians, and enforced by means of the state's police power.
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen makes some interesting points related to this ...
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