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A couple of weeks ago on Twitter, I briefly commented and linked the column found below, written by Michael Cook, the editor of Bioedge. I am not a frequent flyer on any of the social media sites and typically only use such platforms to post the essays I write for my website.
I ventured onto the Twitter battlefield because I was both shocked and embarrassed by the comments from one of the best-known bioethicists in the US, Arthur Caplan @arthurcaplan from NYU-Langone.
Allow me to set the stage for a serious subject that involves value judgments. In the simplest form, a value judgment is any judgment that can be expressed in the form “X is good, meritorious, worthy, desirable” or “X is bad, without merit, worthless, undesirable.
Early in the Covid-19 crisis, the debate over the potential need to ration extremely scarce resources, i.e. ventilators, spilled across the media, creating hysteria-driven chyrons scrolling across the bottom of all cable channels. The fear that demand would far outstrip the supply of ventilators for Covid admissions was real, especially in a hot spot such as NYC. Thankfully, no one in need was denied access to life saving equipment.
So, the comments from this renowned bioethicist rang the alarm bell for me. Was Mr. Caplan speaking on behalf of the bioethics community when he cast judgment on the value of a life for those representing one group of protesters versus another?
He was quoted as saying that the small crowds of protesters from flyover country waving flags and brandishing placards at state capitals should “sign and carry a pledge stating they decline all medical care to treat Covid-19, should they fall ill if resources are being rationed.”
Alternatively, Mr. Caplan supported the thousands of protesters after George Floyd’s tragic death as “vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of black people in the United States” because white supremacy contributes to Covid-19.
I assert that Mr. Caplan has cast judgment on whose lives are less worthy, a dangerous position that should be and is condemned in the greater bioethics’ community.
In my zeal to challenge what I saw as an assault on social justice and the fair allocation of resources, I posted on Twitter
What hypocrisy! @arthurcaplan statements are shocking and embarrassing to most of us in the bioethics community, and then proceeded to link Michael Cook’s essay and hit “Tweet.”
To my astonishment and at lightning speed, I received a response from the esteemed Mr. Caplan. Hypocrisy? You ideologically fueled liar! And then he blocked me on Twitter.
Needless to say, I was stunned by his attack. After all, he graces the top of the bioethics hierarchy. I do not. Naively, I was hoping for an honest give and take to better understand his conflicting positions when, in medical treatment, decisions are never made based upon someone’s value to society.
I deleted the tweet since I had no voice to respond after being blocked. I think I was “cancelled” or maybe I was “ghosted.” Was Mr. Caplan determining whose “lives [are]less worthy?” I certainly hope not, but I will not have the chance to ask—I’ve been blocked.
Mass gatherings: OK. Mass: not OK
by Michael Cook | 5 Jun 2020
If you can remember that long ago, the only protesters defying Covid-19 lockdowns in the United States were small crowds of roughnecks from flyover country waving flags and brandishing placards at State capitals.
Nonetheless, petty incidents like this still outraged bioethicists and public health experts. Writing in PennLive, a Pennsylvania blog, four of them, including the nationally-known bioethicist Art Caplan, argued that those protesters were freeloading on the sacrifices made by people who observed lockdown restrictions.
They had little sympathy for them if they fell ill with the coronavirus: “If the protesters can’t be persuaded that they are wrong and their behavior is dangerous, they should own up to their political commitment and sign and carry a pledge stating they decline all medical care to treat Covid-19, should they fall ill if resources are being rationed.”
That was then.
Now, crowds of tens of thousands have gathered to protest the appalling tragedy of the death of George Floyd in cities across the country. Most of them are ignoring social distancing. Hospitals can expect a gigantic spike in coronavirus cases.
So are these protesters freeloaders? Nope. They’re heroes – according to 1,300 public health and infectious diseases experts, along with community stakeholders. Lockdown critics may deserve to die without ventilators, but protesters against racism should be encouraged, praised and supported. The public health response “must be wholly different from the response to white protesters resisting stay-home orders”.
“White supremacy is a lethal public health issue that predates and contributes to Covid-19,” they write. “As public health advocates, we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for Covid-19 transmission. We support them as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States.”
This is a “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” moment for these American experts, the triumph of virtue-signalling over virtue. States should “prepare for an increased number of infections in the days following a protest [and should] provide increased access to testing and care for people in the affected communities, especially when they or their family members put themselves at risk by attending protests.”
A few weeks ago, violating curfews was a crime. Now it’s almost a patriotic duty.
Art Caplan even had the cheek to give a thumbs-up to the protests despite the danger. “I’m not sure they’re gonna be socially distant– that’s pretty hard in a demonstration, so I get that,” he told WGBH in Boston. “But you should be doing all that you can and remember, it isn’t just making the group sick, it’s bringing it home, the virus.”
In other words, even though 100,000 Americans have died of Covid-19, we’re cool with a lot more of them dying.
For many Americans — already suspicious of self-righteous experts — this is sure to confirm their misgivings.
Over the past three months the economy has been trashed, millions have lost their jobs, lives have been turned upside down – on the advice of experts. In the reassuring words of an Australian expert:
Our leaders and senior public health officials are receiving some of the best medical and public health advice that is available, informed by people who have been working on the possibility of this very scenario for years. I would appeal, therefore, to all commentators that we trust in our leaders, noting that they are being advised by some of the best experts in the world.
Rather than showcasing the experts’ repudiation of racism, this letter exposes their irresponsibility. It undermines the strategy of compulsory social distancing and lockdowns. Its message is that quarantine regulations are, and probably always were, political – you’re allowed to ignore them if you support the right cause.
This is sure to infuriate people who lost their jobs (not essential) or who were prevented from going to church (not essential). But you can have rallies to protest racism (essential). Mass gatherings but not Mass. What a great election year slogan! What are these guys smoking? Are they really working for President Trump?
And one more thing.
All of those experts should fall on their knees and pray fervently for a spike. If there isn’t one, that means that their draconian policies were a gigantic con. Maybe they’ll end up looking for work along with the 35 million people whom they helped to put out of a job.
Reprinted from: https://www.bioedge.org/indepth/view/mass-gatherings-ok.-mass-not-ok/13454