I wrote these two procrastinating on Math. Mr Wong wanted me to do them anyway, so I guess I’m not entirely wasting my time. Just not making the best use of it.
1. Doctors should always save lives, no matter what the cost.
- Doctors (ideally) go into the profession aiming to help people and save lives, doing so because of a strong moral inclination. The Hippocratic Oath is a historical Greek Oath taken by physicians to uphold certain ethical standards. While it is for all intents and purposes defunct, it symbolises the moral code doctors maintain, “to do no harm”, “to help the sick according to their ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing.” Hence, doctors enter the profession with these ideals in mind, and should uphold them, not lose sight of them.
- Since doctors should save lives, they should minimise on the opportunity cost of saving a life, that is to say they should minimise the sacrifices made and save as many as possible. This gives rise to the concept of Triage. Given limited resources, doctors should tend to those whose injuries require treatment (substantive enough to warrant a doctor’s attention) yet have significant chances of recovery. Those with superficial wounds should be left to other personnel or to perform self treatment, and those with grievous wounds should be comforted (administered a morphine injection) and left to die. This approach maximises utility and is the best way for doctors to save lives.
- Doctors’ moral duty to save lives should not supersede an individual’s fundamental right to choose, at her discretion, which treatment should be undertaken, or declined. For example, when experimental drugs are available, doctors must weigh the risks objectively. The untested drug may save the patient, but the result is uncertain and it may end up endangering the patient’s life. After the relevant information and a doctor’s recommendation is given to the patient, the patient makes the decision. This is congruent with the requirements of the law, as outlined in the Mental Capacity Act. Only when a patient is determined to lack the capacity, has made her wishes clear prior to loss of capacity, and the person(s) specified with the Lasting Power of Attorney has articulated a wish to proceed with treatment, can the doctor act on his judgement.
- Doctors should not advise excessively expensive treatments with little benefit to the patient, especially for patients in advanced stages of terminal illness. Instead, a graceful descent in a caring hospice environment might be better for the patient, allowing for proper closure and reconciliation before the patient passes on.
- Doctors should not be recommended to save lives at the cost of their own. While the doctor may be acting for the greater good, to advise someone to act against their own interests is morally unsound. To risk life and limb is a grave, intensely personal decision subject to an individual’s own belief. For example, doctors working in environments with high exposure to contagious diseases with little to no cure are there not because of pressure but because of their own desire to serve.
- Doctors are also needed in other non-life-threatening sectors. For example, doctors can do good work as plastic surgeons, reconstructing the faces of acid attack victims, or as general practitioners who treat everyday maladies such as the common flu and fever. Not every doctor needs to work in Accident and Emergency, as doctors in these sectors are just as essential.
‘Question everything.’ Is this sound advice when approaching media today?
- Yes, critical assessment of what is presented in media is important, because it encourages deeper analysis of claims, resulting in a better understanding of the relevant content. For example, looking for assumptions allows the viewer to understand the limitations of the arguments made, in doing so the abstract is made more concrete and grounded in reality, making the contents useful. Evaluating the truth value of statements lends insight into the true nature of the situation, as some of the “facts” presented may be distorted, misinterpreted or patently false. In doing so, the viewer gains a greater depth of understanding.
- Yes, questioning enables the viewer to look beyond the face value of what is said, leading to a more accurate picture of events. This is different from the previous point, in that questioning not only allows better understanding of content but of intent. The viewer unearths ulterior motives and the intended impact of the media, and is able to account for biases and other persuasive methods. For example, a left-leaning Western newspaper such as The Guardian presents a very different perspective of the same issue as Al-Jazeera on a polarising subject. The Guardian may report what Al-Jazeera claims to be illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine territory as Israeli forces protecting their sovereignty. Hence, consumers of media understand that what the media portrays is highly coloured, and learn to navigate around these biases.
- It may not always be advantageous to question media. Given the credibility of financial news agencies such as Reuters, Agence France Presse and Associated Press, doubting their reports is essentially a futile pursuit. Furthermore, given the fast pace of developments and the news agencies’ extensive network of sources, it is nigh impossible to verify how accurate the reporting truly is. It would also be difficult for them to coordinate falsification of evidence. Even if one were able to match these agencies level of efficacy, the consensus among the majority of their reports is proof of their accuracy.
- The opportunity cost of questioning, or the value of truth forgone, is not significant in certain media, such as fashion, lifestyle or entertainment media. These categories of media detail grossly exaggerated stories and sensationalist headlines, and are known to be so divorced from the lives of normal people that misreporting is of no consequence (hence the lack of quality).
- Questioning everything may not be useful, as it leaves the viewer wholly unsatisfied as a consequence of the Münchhausen trilemma, which is that there are only 3 options when providing proof: the circular argument, in which theory and proof support each other; the regressive argument, in which each proof requires a further proof, ad infinitum; and the axiomatic argument, which rests on accepted precepts. The trilemma, then is the decision among the three equally unsatisfying options. In the pursuit of pure truth, one has stripped away everything, doubting even oneself’s own beliefs, leading to Aporia, or the state of puzzlement, which is admittedly not very useful.
- Questioning everything in media assumes that truth is the endgame. Some media is consumed precisely because it is fantastical, whimsical and is utterly unconcerned with the trivialities of truth and reality. For example, science fiction movies stretch the imagination of what is possible, even though viewers know at some level that what the characters achieve is physically impossible. By questioning and deconstructing the media, the fantasy realms lose their seductive power over the viewer and the subterfuge disappears. The media is no longer enjoyable.