The Hippocratic Oath is a promise in essence “to do no harm” made by a new doctor before becoming a practicing physician. The oath has been a standard of the medical community for several centuries. It remains just as meaningful and valid today as when Hippocrates wrote it in 400 BC. Medical ethics in today’s modern society has become very blurry and hard to understand (Price 1). It is not the oath that has acquired a more complicated meaning. It is the practice of medicine that has become more complex.
Presently, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for doctors to discern good medicine from bad medicine. In our current society political correctness, policy, and politics have come to define good medicine as opposed to what is best for the patient. Over a century ago, H. G. Wells was criticized for his novel The Island of Doctor Moreau written in 1896. Literary critics and the general public were appalled by the atrocities depicted in the text. Contemporary authors, physicians, and scientists could not fathom the cruel behavior of Doctor Moreau.
And it was easy to see that Dr. Moreau was practicing bad medicine and had broken his vow ‘to do now harm. ’ The Island of Doctor Moreau was a novel written late in 1896 by H. G. Wells. The plot seems relatively simple and typical of a science fiction novel. A young civil servant is the sole survivor of shipwreck. He is found floating along side the island of Doctor Moreau who rescues him. The young man has no knowledge that Doctor Moreau has fled from his home nation fearing charges of animal cruelty. Upon first impressions, the young man falls in love with the island.
Slowly he remembers stories about Dr. Moreau and the horrors he created. The lush fauna and sandy beaches are exciting and new to him. To paraphrase John S. Partington, in The Death of the Static: H. G. Wells and the Kinetic Utopia, Dr. Moreau’s island was like Eden, Dr. Moreau was God, and Prendick was like Adam. When curiosity gets the best of him he wanders deep into the overgrowth and what he finds there is deeply shocking. Doctor Moreau is using a process called vivisection to create a hybrid of animal and human. His research goal is to make man be absent of evil.
In the end Moreau is killed and the young man, Prendick, escapes and lives to tell the tale. To gain a better understanding of the novel and the beliefs of H. G. Wells it is important to look at the prevailing scientific knowledge of the time in which the novel was written. The late 19th century was when Darwin first made known his theories of evolution and survival of the fittest. Darwin believed that all species including humans, change with time. In time when God was the creator of all, the idea of evolution and our link to other species was very disturbing to the general public.
H. G. Wells was a contemporary writer of this time. In two of his most famous novels, The Time Machine and The Island of Doctor Moreau, he investigates the conflict between nature and God. In summary, H. G. Wells was not just an author but also a trained biologist. What could be more frightening than an island of beasts butchered by a mad scientist. Dr. Moreau does not just alter the bodies but using plastic surgery to make them appear human but also their minds (Mclean). He has them recite the laws he created. The gather together and chant “Not to go on all-fours; that is the Law.
Are we not Men? ” But that is not the worst of it. After the chanting of the Law comes the hymn of praise to their Creator: His is the House of Pain. His is the Hand that makes. His is the Hand that wounds. His is the Hand that heals. His is the lightning-flash. His is the deep salt sea. His are the stars in the sky…. To summarize Freeman Dyson point in his book titled Disturbing the Universe, a biologist like Wells has had to confront the idea, can the scientific community play god and if so, can they stay sane (Dyson 111).
Can the scientific community remain objected and no let the power of life, death, and creation which is left in their hands go to their heads. If the answer is no, than the lesson is learned, and Dr. Moreau is what will be produced. A man who knows no ethical boundaries, who believes he is more powerful than God. Much of H. G. Wells writing explores the idea of what are the implications of modern biology gone wrong. By allowing people and animals to be altered, even if it is treatment for their “own good” the human race will loose two important anchors- our sense of identity, and the brotherhood of mankind.
These two things keep us sane and of course any visitor to The Island of Dr. Moreau looses these completely. Certainly, Prendick does, he must fight for his life and kill, an activity he would never do had he not wandered upon the Doctor’s Island. The scientific community has come a long way since 1896. The knowledge of DNA, we know in detail how life is produced and reproduced. Whoever can read the DNA language can also learn to write it. Whoever learns to write the language will in time learn to design living creatures according to his whim. Presently, the public should fear not the crude Dr.
Moreau’s with knives but the young, bright zoologist sitting at his computer cloning an extinct animal, or splicing genes in and out the human genome to create a superior human. Though it was science-fiction in 1896, Wells’ novel is frighteningly close to science today. The issues he pressed in this novel are still current. Even more so because the lines of what constitutes harm are very blurry. What Doctor Moreau did was wrong but aren’t plastic surgeons modern versions of Doctor Moreau? Except clients actually pay them to slice them up and make them more perfect humans. In 2003 there were 8. 7 million cosmetic plastic surgeries.
This number is up 32% from 2002 (Hill). What Doctor Moreau did was wrong but aren’t therapists taking advantage of a nation’s worth of people who are “emotionally underdeveloped, psychically frail, and requiring the ministrations of mental health professionals to cope with life’s vicissitudes. Being “in touch with one’s feelings” and freely expressing them have become paramount personal virtues. Today-with a book for every ailment, a counselor for every crisis, a lawsuit for every grievance, and a TV show for every conceivable problem-we are at risk of degrading our native ability to cope with life’s challenges.
” (Sommers). Is that any worse then Doctor Moreau solution of having his pseudo humans chant the rules of being human? Sally Satel who wrote Victimizing the ‘Victims’, which is the commentary exploring how political correctness in the medical profession is hindering the quality of patient care people receive. In summary Satel says, the goals of the public health sector have changed from using science to improve people’s lives to a “global ideology to manipulate the way people think about disease and its remedies.
” The change is not for the better. Today, she argues, victimology is one of the biggest trends in medicine. There is a trend in the medical world to look at connection as the cause and make diagnoses accordingly. For example, it’s true that wealthier people tend to be healthier. But can you assume that poverty is responsible for higher levels of disease among the poor? Are the poor incapable of helping themselves? Well, yes, argue leading “indoctrinologists,” as Satel calls the backers of poltically correct medicine.
Which is why two health experts could write in the American Journal for Public Health, “we must address the social inequalities that so reliably produce” these inequalities in health (Satel). HMO’s offer a similar problem. To paraphrase Sarah Cay Bradley viewpoint with the increase of HMO’s there has been a drastic decrease in how much Americans spend on healthcare, also decreasing is the quality of healthcare people are receiving. Doctors are forced to follow the rules of their demanding HMO partners. Even if what is in the best interest of the patient does not follow those rules.
There are several cost effective policies that physicians are required to follow today. One concept is time is money, the quicker a doctor gets a patient out the more money that is saved. Doctors always seem to be in a hurry spending very little time actually speaking to their patients. Which can lead to misdiagnosis or overlooked health problems. Political correctness, policy, and politics drive the current scientific and medical communities. Instead of producing healthcare professionals who are compassionate and reflective, they produce professionals can simply follow instructions.
Just because doctors today are following the rules set forth for them by insurance companies, and the government does not mean they are practicing good medicine. Perhaps they too, like Doctor Moreau, have forgotten their oath ‘to do no harm’ and replaced it with the creed ‘make more money. ’ In 1896 H. G. Wells, pondered in text, the “what ifs” of what could go wrong with modern medicine and science. The public rebuked his rather blunt commentary as foolishness and vulgarity. A hundred years later, Dr. Moreau has become the norm. Works Cited Dyson, Freeman.
Disturbing the Universe. New York: Basic Books, 1979. Questia. 10 Dec. 2005 <http://www. questia. com/PM. qst? a=o&d=99805151>. Hill, Theresa. “More Than 8. 7M Cosmetic Plastic Surgeries in 2003, Up 32 Pct. Over 2002; For 12th Year, American Society of Plastic Surgeons Reports Statistics. ” US New Wire Service. 8 March 2004. 09 Dec. 2005 <http://releases. usnewswire. com/GetRelease. asp? id=27203>. Mclean, Steven. “W. Warren Mclean. H. G. Wells: Traversing Time. ” Utopian Studies 16. 2 (2005): 320+. Questia. 10 Dec. 2005 <http://www. questia. com/PM. qst? a=o&d=5011262562>.