Medical correctness

Anthony Daniels in The New Criterion:

Hippocrates-alexIn Russia in 1839, Custine wrote that Tsar Nicholas I was both eagle and insect: eagle because he soared over society surveying it with a sharp raptor’s eye from above, and insect because he bored himself into every tiny crack and crevice of society from below. Nothing was either too large or too small for his attention; and sometimes one feels that political correctness is rather like that. For the politically correct, nothing is too large or too small to escape their puritanical attention. As a consequence, we suspect that we are living an authoritarian prelude to a totalitarian future. Whether medical journals be large or small depends, of course, on the importance that you attach to them. As a doctor I am inclined to accord them more importance than the average citizen might; but what is indisputable is that they are not immune from political correctness, quite the reverse. Reading them, one has the impression of being buttonholed by a terrific bore at a cocktail party, who won’t let you go unless you agree with his assessment of the situation in Somalia.

At first sight, medicine might appear an unpromising subject for political correctness. You are ill, you go to the doctor, he tries to cure you, whoever you might be: what could be more straightforward than that? But in fact medicine is a field ripe for political correctness’s harvester. The arrangement by which health care is delivered is eminently a subject of politics; moreover we live in the golden age of epidemiology, in which the distribution of health and disease is studied more closely even than the distribution of income. Inequalities are usually presented as inequities (they have to be selected carefully, however: I have never seen the superior life expectancy of women, sometimes considerable and present almost everywhere, described as an inequity, even though the right to life is supposedly the most basic of all in the modern catechism of human rights). The decent man abominates unfairness or injustice: therefore the man who abominates unfairness or injustice is decent. Political correctness—linguistic and semantic reform as the first step to world domination—came comparatively late to medical journals. This is because, where intellectual fashions are concerned, doctors are usually in the rear, rather than the vanguard. Their patients plant their feet on the ground for them, whether they want them planted there or not; for there is nothing quite like contact with a cross-section of humanity for destroying utopian illusions.

More here.