By Elena Greco

photo from 123rf

Typical reading time: 3 minutes

June 2, 2021

What kind of people have we become? I believe that’s a fair and useful question at this point in time.

I was stunned to discover that there is a movement afoot to deny life-saving medical care to people who haven’t received a Covid-19 vaccine. And that one physician proposed putting unvaccinated people who came to the hospital in a tent outside without air conditioning instead of inside the hospital, which apparently is his attempt to punish those who haven’t gotten a vaccine. I’m speechless and sad.

Is this where we are now? Letting people die because they might have a condition that prevents them from getting the vaccine, or because they have a different opinion about their healthcare than we do? And since when do physicians get to decide whether their patients deserve to get healthcare? If we don’t say anything in response to this unethical behavior, we’re tacitly supporting it.

There are words for killing people (and deliberately letting people die is certainly killing) because we don’t like or agree with their beliefs. Barbaric, medieval and primitive are words that come to mind. Is this what we’ve become? In a country that is supposedly democratic, inclusive, sophisticated, educated, and compassionate? None of those words describe those who allow others to die simply because they don’t like their choices. Surely we as a nation are above that kind of cruel behavior in this country.

I hope everyone realizes that there are many reasons someone might not be vaccinated. It’s not a given, if someone hasn’t gotten a vaccine, that they’re a Republican, or an “anti-vaxxer,” or stupid. Some have medical reasons such that taking a vaccine could cause them harm. Others have made an informed choice for other reasons (I can think of at least five). And even if they are one of those things I just named, does that make it all right to wish them dead?

No one in this country—or any other—deserves to be allowed to die because they have beliefs or needs that are not the same as those of the establishment or the majority. Nor do they deserve to be ridiculed and judged, particularly when those doing the judging don’t even know them or their story. Are we so arrogant that we have to loudly and smugly proclaim our certainty in order to feel superior to them?

In recognizing that certain people have fallen victim to cultish beliefs and that certain ideologies are detrimental to the preservation of democracy, let’s not then take it a step further and automatically punish or ostracize anyone whose beliefs are different from ours. Because that accomplishes exactly the same thing that we’re trying to prevent in resisting cultish, anti-democratic beliefs and behavior.

Also, please recognize that we don’t always have all of the facts, that sometimes facts are hidden from us unless we dig deep. Hiding those facts sometimes benefits a vested interest or another concern that we’re unaware of. So it’s good not to close our minds to what might be uncovered in the future, holding on rigidly to our beliefs because … exactly why would we hold on rigidly to our beliefs, even in the face of new facts?

Sometimes people are simply under the sway of a popular belief, a belief that they’ve never explored because that belief has been propagated aggressively. Think of them as indoctrinated. If we see that someone is under the influence of a cult, do we just kill them?

There are multiple and sometimes complex reasons that people are not vaccinated. And if they arrive at the hospital sick, they might not be able to tell you what those reasons are. Are you willing to let them die, simply because you don’t personally approve of anyone who hasn’t taken the vaccine? Physicians aren’t supposed to make judgments about their patients based on their personal choices, judgments that affect their care of the patient. Ask any ER doc if they’ve ever treated anyone who’s made a bad decision 😎.

Are you willing to let people die or suffer because you don’t like their choices? Because if you are, you might want to consider what kind of person you’ve become, and to remember what a civilized, democratic country stands for.

In fact, it might be good for all of us to ask that question: What have we become? During the ordeals of the last five years, have we become more punitive, less accepting, less compassionate, more “us versus them”? Is that the direction we want to go? It might be human to lean in that direction during difficult times, but being human also means we have the ability to reason and to determine our actions, and that we don’t have to give in to primordial impulses. The humans of a century ago seem rather primitive to us, don’t they? That’s because humans tend to evolve over time, moving toward a more intelligent paradigm. Let’s not move backwards, as we seem to be doing now.

Remember Joseph Mengele? He tortured humans through gruesome, painful experiments in the name of “science.” He was able to do that cruel and inhuman thing by seeing those humans as The Other, and he was allowed to do that because a large number of people were under the influence of a movement which perpetuated the belief that certain humans were The Other. When we see other humans as The Other, it might seem all right to set our ethics and moral codes aside, because, after all, they’re The Other.

But it is never all right, is it? The minute we act unethically against others, no matter how small the infringement of ethics, we are absolutely no different from Mengele.

We are all HUMANS, first and foremost. Whatever tribe we choose or have been chosen through birth to be in alignment with—American, Catholic, German, Jew, Chinese, Protestant, Afghani, Muslim, Democrat, Republican, Vaccinated, Unvaccinated—we still share our humanity. And we still share our ethical responsibility to each other and for our own conduct. There are no free passes ethically due to a challenging situation or an arbitrary rule. Those of us who have the privilege to have been brought up in one of the most democratic and affluent societies on the planet really should remember that.

This is an excellent time—in the middle of a pandemic, climate change, war, chaos, death and starvation—to re-examine our values. Our values inform our actions … and our actions indicate to all what our values are. I recommend making a list of current values as a reminder of what you’re committed to and who you want to be.

What kind of human do you want to be?

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