By Rosalind Kaplan, MD
I'm tired of Covid, so let's talk about something else. Of course, it will be related, since there isn't anything that isn't. Let's talk about social contracts instead. Let's talk about whether people ought to give a crap about other people. I kind of suspect that you do care about other people, since you're reading this. Plus, most people care about at least SOME other people, even if it's only their own immediate family. But what I mean is, a bigger social contract.
Some food for thought:
1. Should we get vaccinated to protect other people, even if we, ourselves, are not worried about Covid?
2. Should we all contribute to a healthcare system that cares for everyone, even if we, ourselves, are healthy and also have plenty of resources should we need care?
3. Since I'm likely to be dead by the time global warming completely destroys the earth, should I bother recycling and dealing with the discomfort of keeping my heat or air conditioning turned down, and pay more for an electric car, so that the world might continue to exist after I'm gone?
4. If I have infectious tuberculosis, but feel fine, do I really need to take medication to prevent other people from getting infectious tuberculosis, even if I am against the idea of taking medication?
5. If I want to drive at 90 mph through a stop sign, and I'm willing to take the risk to my own safety, should I be allowed to do that?
6. If I could protect other people from Covid by wearing a mask, but I don't want to because it might mess up my lipstick, is it okay for me to go without a mask?
Oh, whoops, sorry, we're back to Covid....I can't help it- it takes up a lot of brain space!
When I was applying for medical school, I had an interview at one Ivy League institution during which the interviewer, an older, conservative male doctor, noted on my CV that I had worked as a counselor at a women's health clinic where first trimester abortions were performed. He asked me if I thought abortions were morally acceptable, and I told him that yes, I believed early abortions were acceptable. He then asked if I believed it acceptable to allow someone to 'commit suicide.' I told him that, in general, my answer was no, although there might be nuances, such as someone who is terminally ill and suffering wanting to end their own suffering. But in general, if a friend or colleague, or a stranger, for that matter, told me that they were intending to take their own life, I would attempt to stop them.
My interviewer stopped me at that point, and told me that my reasoning was 'inconsistent.'
"You either take the libertarian view that people should be able to do whatever they want, or you believe that life is sacred." I disagreed with him and said so. I won't go into my reasoning-- you can probably guess at some of it. The interview ended and I was sent on my way. I assumed I would be rejected from this venerable institution, but I didn't care. I was true to myself and my ideals.
As it turned out, the interviewer was, himself, a man of morals, though his and mine did not completely align. He recused himself, and I was re-interviewed by a different professor. Ultimately, I was accepted to the medical school, though it's not where I ended up.
I recently started wondering what a conversation about social contracts with my original interviewer would have looked like. Would he believe we should get vaccinated against Covid to protect each other? Would he have been an anti-vaxxer? An anti-masker? Or just the opposite because he had an absolute belief in the sanctity of human life? Would he have found me inconsistent because I believe that we should have universal healthcare (and childcare and elder care) but I'm not fully Socialist?
I am trying to keep my mind open, trying to understand what others think and believe, trying to see the nuances. But I'm losing my patience with with the inconsistencies I find in my conversations with those who won't get vaccinated and don't want their children to wear masks to school. They are exhausting the country and its healthcare resources and its healthcare workers and putting others in harm's way, yet I'm sure they would want me in jail if I drove 90 mph through a stop sign.