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Mutilation is not healing

Postmodern medicine is a danger to humanity


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Mutilation is not healing
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A recent news item illustrates the moral confusion into which the medical profession has fallen in recent years. A doctor defends an operation to amputate two perfectly healthy fingers from the hand of a Quebec man who was “desperate” to get rid of the fourth and fifth fingers on his left hand.

The story explains that “a surgeon at his local hospital agreed to an elective amputation in what is being called the first described case of ‘digits amputation’ for body integrity dysphoria, or BID, a rare and complex condition characterized by an intense desire to amputate a perfectly healthy body part such as an arm or a leg.”

Now, before proceeding, it is probably necessary to point out that this is not a story from the Babylon Bee mocking gender dysphoria. Sometimes real life makes the Babylon Bee seem unimaginative.

The story is a puff piece that offers no serious critique of either the surgeon or the procedure. However, we are treated to some pseudo-scientific jargon from a German neuropsychologist who claims that BID is likely rooted in an organic dysfunction in the brain. He speculates that it is possibly the result of “faulty connections” formed before birth and, as a result, “the corresponding body part is not correctly represented in the mental body image.” (The story notes without comment that brain scans of the man were completely normal.) The author of the story offers no push back to such speculation and takes at face value that claim that the man who now has only eight fingers is now totally happy and normal.

Clearly modern medicine has lost its way. Medicine, as a profession, is degenerating quickly into something other than what it has been for over 2,500 years. Since the time of the Greek physician Hippocrates of Kos (c. 470-360 BC) the goal of medicine has been healing. But now that is no longer the case.

The Hippocratic Oath says: “Into whatsover houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption” At the foundation of medical ethics is the obligation to act only for the benefit of the patient. A physician is not a technician who offers his services to whoever can pay to do whatever the customer requests. An ethical physician would not give a poison, for example, to a wife whose husband was willing to pay to have her killed. A physician is to be guided by ethical principles of right and wrong.

To mutilate the body of a patient who obviously is not thinking clearly is an irresponsible act of someone who has no moral compass.

To mutilate the body of a patient who obviously is not thinking clearly is an irresponsible act of someone who has no moral compass. The duty of a physician is to heal, and, regardless of what a patient says or wants, mutilation is not healing.

It also should be pointed out that a surgeon is not a psychiatrist. If a dentist or a radiologist diagnosed a person as schizophrenic, would this be professionally appropriate? Surgeons are trained in surgery, not in diagnosing BID. In what sense could it be said that this surgeon was practicing medicine in performing this procedure?

In our day medicine has become very powerful, very complicated, and very compromised. Increasingly, physicians are being asked to do immoral things such as abortion, assisted suicide, and sex-change plastic surgery. There used to be a clear line between healing or therapy, on the one hand, and mutilation, on the other. There is a difference between restoring the body to its original or ideal state of health and trying to change the body into something it is not.

The idea that medicine should be used to impose the will of the individual on the body, which is treated as mere raw material, is fundamentally gnostic and dehumanizing. The doctrine that being is good is denied by all forms of Gnosticism both ancient and modern. But without this metaphysical doctrine, medicine cannot maintain a clear distinction between healing and mutilating.

The problem with all forms of transgenderism and transhumanism is the idea that being is either evil or neutral but is not in itself good. This opens the door to treating our bodies as if they were obstacles to be overcome rather than as gifts to be accepted. Post-metaphysical medicine has no goal, no boundaries, and no limits other than depraved, human willfulness.

It is impossible to practice medicine successfully without a conception of what a human being is. This conception can be derived from classical metaphysics or from the Christian doctrine of creation. But medicine cannot survive without it.


Craig A. Carter

Craig A. Carter is the research professor of theology at Tyndale University in Toronto, Ontario, and theologian in residence at Westney Heights Baptist Church in Ajax, Ontario.


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