Covid’s Totalitarian Temptation
The Covid pandemic unleashed a soft totalitarianism in healthcare policy and bioethical advocacy that may not abate with the decline in infections and deaths from the pandemic. In this essay I will explore why the arrival of a modern plague created conditions that allowed a crass utilitarianism in healthcare to flourish like mushrooms after a rain; I will then illustrate how the current mindset forebodes ill for liberty and the sanctity-of-life ethic in coming years.
The Quality-of-Life Ethic Supplants Sanctity of Life
We didn’t get here overnight. Indeed, it has taken a lifetime for societal values and medical ethics to decay to the point that some of us—the elderly, seriously ill, disabled, and dying—are in danger of being deemed an expendable caste.
It isn’t as if we weren’t warned. In 1949, in the wake of the Nuremberg Medical Trials after World War II, Dr. Leo Alexander wrote a prophetic essay in the New England Journal of Medicine. A medical examiner at the trials, Alexander wanted to know how Germany could have plunged from being one of the most civilized nations in the world to one in which doctors conducted inhumane experiments on concentration camp prisoners and euthanized disabled babies and adults.
After conducting a thorough and painful analysis, Alexander warned his readers that the cultural pathogen that led to those horrors was not unique to Germany, or indeed to Nazis. He wrote:
Whatever proportions these crimes finally assumed, it became evident to all who investigated them that they started from small beginnings. The beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitudes of physicians. It started with the acceptance of the attitude, basic to the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as a life not worthy to be lived. This attitude in its early stages concerned itself merely with the severely and chronically sick. Gradually the sphere of those to be included in this category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted, the racially unwanted and finally all non-Germans.1
Dr. Alexander then issued a prophetic warning:
In an increasingly utilitarian society these patients [with chronic diseases] are being looked down upon with increasing definiteness as unwanted ballast. A certain amount of rather open contempt for the people who cannot be rehabilitated . . . has developed. This is probably due to a good deal of unconscious hostility, because these people for whom there seem to be no effective remedies have become a threat to newly acquired delusions of omnipotence. At this point, Americans should remember that the enormity of the euthanasia movement is present in their own midst.2
What did Alexander’s warning mean? That the sanctity-of-life ethic and medical ethics traditions inspired by the Hippocratic Oath were being supplanted by a view that did not deem all humans as having equal moral worth. In contemporary bioethics parlance, this general philosophy is known as the “quality-of-life” ethic.
Please understand. I am not arguing that the bioethics movement is “Nazi,” or “like Hitler.” Such an analogy would both wildly exaggerate our current situation and diminish the true evil of the medical Holocaust. But there are other ways to engage in morally unacceptable policies and equality-denying advocacy than to go full National Socialist.
So, what is meant by the term “quality of life” as applied to health policy and medical practice?3 In Clinical Ethics, the late bioethicist and historian of the bioethics movement Albert R. Jonsen and his co-authors wrote (my emphasis), “In general, the phrase expresses a value judgment: the experience of living, as a whole or in some aspect, is judged to be ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ ‘better’ or ‘worse.’”4 Such issues are, of course, a proper part of medical decision-making when deciding whether the potential pain or danger of a procedure is worth the hoped-for benefit.
The problem with the concept of quality of life arises when it ceases to be a factor in medical decision-making and becomes, instead, a determinate of moral worth. When applied in this manner, it is often called the “quality-of life ethic,” which the Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer describes in his book Rethinking Life and Death:
We should treat human beings in accordance with their ethically relevant characteristics. Some of these are inherent in the nature of being. They include consciousness, the capacity for physical, social, and mental interaction with other beings, having conscious preferences for continued life, and having enjoyable experiences. Other relevant aspects depend on the relationship of the being to others, having relatives for example who will grieve over your death, or being so situated in a group that if you are killed, others will fear for their own lives. All of these things make a difference to the regard and respect we should have for such a being.5
The danger of Singer’s approach should be obvious to every reader. The standards Singer uses to measure human worth are his standards based on what he considers important and “relevant.” And therein lies the heart of the problem. Subjective notions of human worth, in the end, are about raw power and who gets to do the judging. Quality of life, as a moral measure, strips worth and dignity from people based on age, health, or disability, just as surely as racism does based on skin pigment, hair texture, or eye shape.
The Technocracy Flexes Its Muscles
It isn’t just the emergence of a new and (from my perspective) dystopian value system. Those with the power to control society—let’s call them the “technocracy”—are both embracing the quality-of-life ethic and wresting control of society from normal democratic deliberation, threatening to impose these values on a society that does not agree with them.
What do I mean by “technocracy?”6 In essence, the word translates into “rule by experts.” But in its currently gestating iteration, it means much more than that. A looming, international technocracy has coalesced that threatens to substantially control most important aspects of life by imposing legal and regulatory policies favored by supposed “experts”—scientists, bioethicists, and societal “influencers”—which when combined with Big Tech’s control over social discourse, creates rigidly enforced social orthodoxies.
Technocracy isn’t tyranny, but it threatens a softer authoritarianism. There are no gulags established to imprison dissenters or tyrannous executions to punish the rebellious. Instead, a technocracy smothers democratic deliberation by removing most decision-making about essential policies from the people (through their elected representatives) to an expert class based on their education and experience and the data they think matter. In other words, rather than laws being passed by representatives of the people, regulations are imposed by bureaucrats based on technocratic opinion and advice. As author John H. Evans wrote several years ago:
The first characteristic of technocracy . . . is a “deep seated animosity toward politics itself” and toward the public ability to make decisions. But it is not just that with technocracy, experts will rule. The second and more important characteristic of technocracy is that expert rule is justified by making policy decisions seem to be only about facts, which are fixed; not values which vary from group to group. This is accomplished by removing debates about values in politics and making political decisions solely about selecting the most efficacious means for forwarding taken-forgranted values.7
How did we get to the point that experts threaten to take effective control of society? Blame the Covid crisis for unleashing a boldness in the would-be technocrats and at the same time engendering timidity among people who want to be safe. Globalists have seized the unique moment to increase their
power on an unprecedented international scale. As Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, explained, the pandemic’s “silver lining” was to demonstrate “how quickly we can make radical changes to our lifestyles.”8
Quality of Life and Covid
The viral blitzkrieg hit at a time when much of society accepted some version of the quality-of-life ethic and when many were willing to bend the knee to the expert consensus—also known by the advocacy slogan “Follow the science!” Indeed, the Covid crisis revealed the insidious nature of the values against which Dr. Alexander warned through the ongoing and seemingly systematic victimization of frail elderly, particularly those who live or are patients in assisted living or skilled nursing facilities.
Covid is an odd disease. It has had a wildly disparate impact on various age groups. For the young and healthy (unlike the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918), the disease might be asymptomatic or no worse than a mild flu. Indeed, the death rate for Covid among those young has been astonishingly low. The Heritage Foundation reported that as of February 17, 2021, only 45 people had died from the disease who were less than one year old, and only 23 under age 5. In contrast, 99,019 had died between the ages of 65-74, another 128,192 between 75-84, and 146,217 over the age of 85.9
That being so, a sanctity/equality-of-life approach would have created pandemic response policies that prioritized protecting those most at risk of serious illness and death. But several states—New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and others—instead pursued policies that exacerbated the risk to the elderly. New York’s approach in the early epidemic appears to have been the most egregious. When Governor Andrew Cuomo put out a call for help from the federal government out of fear that hospitals could be overwhelmed, President Donald Trump ordered the Naval hospital ship Comfort sent to New York City to aid with any overflow. The government also set up a huge makeshift hospital at the Javits Center. New York now had thousands of extra beds to care for Covid patients in dire need of intensive or acute medical care in a hospital setting.
These facilities were never used more than marginally—meaning there were thousands of beds to which elderly people with Covid could have been assigned for care. Despite this—and in disregard of the heightened risk which was already known—Governor Cuomo instituted a policy requiring infected Covid patients to be admitted into assisted living and nursing home facilities—this despite the risk of infection and death to those who did not yet have the disease.
What could justify such a heartless policy? Cuomo has never admitted it, but the quality-of-life ethic provides the only rational basis for such a reckless course, i.e., the frail elderly were deemed by policy makers to be of lesser value than the young. So, it became acceptable to put septuagenarians, octogenarians, and those even older at material risk of serious illness and death in order to preserve hospital space for those perceived as more important, e.g., the young, healthy, and productive—even though the latter categories were at far less risk of dying or experiencing serious morbidity. And when the entirely predictable deaths of elderly patients tore a hole through the hearts of their loved ones, Cuomo—it is charged (though he denies it)— covered up the toll to give himself political cover.10
How should New York have handled the emergency of perceived resource shortages ethically? The Catholic bioethicist Charles Camosy explained in an opinion article in the New York Post. What we shouldn’t do, Camosy wrote, was allow rationing based on an invidious judgment of the patient’s “quality of life” or “number of years a patient could enjoy,” as opposed to predicting immediate survivability based on each individual patient’s condition—which is the essence of ethical “triage.” From “Coronavirus Crisis: The Wrong Way to Decide Which Patients Get Hospital Care:”
It should not be up to physicians to decide whose subjective quality of life deserves to be prolonged. Physicians almost always rate the quality of life of their patients significantly lower than patients do themselves—and miss the fact that their patients often prefer length of life to quality of life (whatever that means). In short, they are terrible deciders about who should live and who should die.11
Camosy assured readers that New York State was legally supposed to base care decisions on suitably objective criteria about survivability without regard to membership in an invidious category such as age or disability. But that is not what was actually done. Instead, the elderly were deemed disposable. As a result, thousands died, at least some of whom might have been saved. Indeed, New York’s death toll for vulnerable seniors was the worst in the country— even though it wasn’t the only state that ordered infected seniors returned from hospitals back into nursing homes—as claims of officials covering up the actual numbers of the elderly who died led to an FBI investigation. The outcome of that investigation remains uncertain as of this writing.12
It could have been worse. When the vaccines against Covid received emergency approval for use by the FDA, many notable voices in the bioethics community sought to deny priority to the frail elderly. Instead, influential bioethicists like Ezekiel Emanuel—who was an architect of the Affordable Care Act and a close adviser to now-President Joe Biden on Covid—advocated an approach based on preventing “premature death,” as opposed to an actual assessment of risk to elderly individuals. Writing in the context of opposing “vaccine nationalism”—an issue beyond our scope here—Emanuel and his co-authors argued in favor of a “Fair Priority Model,” which would require that vaccine distribution be based on a “standard expected years of life lost” (SEYLL) standard13—which “is an indicator of premature mortality.” In other words, a patient dying from Covid at 60 would lose more SEYLLs than a patient dying at 85. So, in the context of setting international standards for vaccine distribution, the frail elderly would not be given priority—even though they are most at risk from Covid—because if they died, their SEYLL would not be as high as if someone younger succumbed. Never mind that the younger person was less likely to die!
Why? Essentially, Emanuel thinks that the lives of younger people matter more than those of their elders, writing: “A premature death that prevents someone’s exercising their skills or realizing their goals later in life is worse than a death later in life. Ethicists have similarly argued that preventing early deaths—deaths that are more prevalent in poorer countries—is both prudent and ethical.” In other words, Emanuel advocates that people with far less chance of falling seriously ill and dying—whether in the United States or overseas—should have priority over the elderly who are most at material risk because their lives are just not as important. But then, he is the guy who wrote that he wants to die at age 75 because, after that, a person will be remembered by loved ones as “feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.”14
It wasn’t just Emanuel. Over at the Hastings Center Report—the most influential bioethics journal in the world—a bioethicist named Larry R. Churchill claimed that elderly people should go to the back of the line for life-saving treatment and vaccines—this even though the elderly were known by the time of the essay to be most at risk of serious health consequences from Covid. Churchill—who is himself 75—advocated a type of duty for the aged to die:
Does being elderly incur duties others do not have? I believe the answer is, yes, and foremost among these is an obligation for parsimonious use of newly scarce and expensive health care resources.15
Here’s Churchill’s awful idea. The elderly have the moral duty to go to the back of the line for receiving life-saving medical treatment and, when available, vaccines. If that causes them to die when they might otherwise have lived, that’s fine, because it illuminates “the integrity of elderhood” (whatever that means).
The Technocracy Threatens Authoritarian Control
In addition to unethical—and deadly—quality of life rationing imposed in several states, the Covid crisis also revealed the ambition of “the experts” to assume control over society—justifying planned infringements of liberty as needed to promote “wellness” or prevent disease. More, the “experts” even showed a desire to impose an international technocracy as a means of avoiding future pandemics. Space permits only nutshell descriptions, but each is a serious liberty concern:
Forced Vaccination: There have certainly been state vaccine mandates requiring that children receive inoculations as a condition of attending school. But there has never been a national mandate requiring all Americans to be vaccinated against disease. Not for smallpox and not for polio.
Some wanted to use the Covid threat to change that. Notable public intellectuals in law, medicine, and bioethics argued that the government should force everyone to take the vaccine—without exception, except for health reasons. For example, our friend Ezekiel Emanuel co-authored a call in the New York Times for vaccine mandates:
We need to sharply reduce coronavirus infections to turn the tide and quell the pandemic. The best hope is to maximize the number of people vaccinated, especially among those who interact with many others and are likely to transmit the virus.
How can we increase vaccinations? Mandates.
Vaccines should be required for health care workers and for all students who plan to attend in-person classes this fall—including younger children once the vaccine is authorized for them by the Food and Drug Administration. Employers should also be prepared to make vaccines mandatory for prison guards, E.M.T.s, police officers, firefighters and teachers if overall vaccinations do not reach the level required for herd immunity.16
Emanuel was far from alone in endorsing government coercion. Writing in the Oxford University-based Practical Ethics, the bioethicist Alberto Giubilini—who once advocated for the propriety of infanticide—urged that government issue binding orders for all citizens to be vaccinated against Covid:
Unless one thinks that bodily integrity is a quasi-sacred value, it is unreasonable to think that the breach of bodily integrity represented by injecting a vaccine through a thin needle or the small risks of vaccine side effects outweigh the harms of the virus and those of compulsory lockdown.17
And here’s an irony: Giubilini claims that “the right to life” trumps privacy and autonomy concerns with regard to the vaccine. Let’s forget that this is the same Giubilini who, in common with most mainstream bioethicists, has repeatedly told us that bodily integrity (i.e., autonomy) is a quasi-sacred right in the abortion and assisted suicide contexts.
The most outrageous vaccine mandate statement was made by Harvard Law School Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz in a podcast interview. Here is what he said:
Let me put it very clearly: you have no constitutional right to endanger the public and spread the disease, even if you disagree. You have no right not to be vaccinated.… And if you refuse to be vaccinated, the state has the power to literally take you to a doctor’s office and plunge a needle into your arm.18
Dershowitz justified that shocking conclusion as settled law under a 1905 Supreme Court case, Jacobson v. Massachusetts.19 That seemed like an awfully Draconian decision, so I read it. And what do you know: It isn’t nearly as broad in scope as Dershowitz indicated.
The case involved federalism and the power of local governments authorized in a law passed by Massachusetts that allowed municipalities to require smallpox vaccinations of all residents during local outbreaks. The Cambridge Health Board issued such an order during a community epidemic. An anti-vaxxer of the time refused, was prosecuted, and ultimately convicted of violating the order. The defendant brought the case to the Supreme Court arguing that the Massachusetts law and Cambridge order violated the
U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled that it did not. From the ruling: “Liberty may at times, under the pressure of great dangers, be subjected to such restraint, to be enforced by reasonable regulations, as the safety of the general public may demand.”
Now, let’s apply the Jacobson ruling to the current Covid-19 crisis. First: The authority granted Cambridge was limited in scope and applied only within that city. In other words, the Cambridge order had zero impact on the residents of Cape Cod.
Second: Government cannot just pass any law it wants because there is a health emergency. So, here’s a question that must be answered in assessing Dershowitz’s claim of a broad power of the government in the current circumstance: Is the Covid-19 pandemic such a “great danger” that it would be “reasonable” to secure “the safety of the general public” for the government to force everyone in the country to be vaccinated?
It seems to me that the answer must be no.
Third: Since we can identify the minority most at risk from Covid-19, is it reasonable to force everyone in the country to be vaccinated? Absolutely not. The government can deploy far less intrusive means to shield such people with limited quarantine orders and locking down nursing homes, as two examples.
Finally, the pandemic has had widely divergent impact throughout the country. Would it be reasonable to force people in Montana to all be vaccinated because New York and New Jersey were hit by a catastrophe? Surely, the answer has to be no. Given that high-risk populations can be identified and isolated for their protection without materially impacting the freedom of the rest of society, I believe that state or federal laws requiring universal vaccination would be viewed by the courts as an unreasonable overreach of government power.
Our leaders are, of course, free to use persuasive means to convince us to be inoculated should the current vaccines—which, as of this writing, are under an emergency use authorization—ever receive full FDA approval (as seems likely). But in this particular circumstance, and given the exigencies of this specific disease, it would seem unlikely that they will be able to punish us for refusing to accept the jab. And the government, Dershowitz’s opinion notwithstanding, certainly doesn’t have “the power to literally take you to a doctor’s office and plunge a needle into your arm.”
Vaccine Passports: The powers that be know the above better than I do, and that may be why there has not been a serious effort by the federal or state governments to force us all to be vaccinated. That fact should not make us sanguine. Because what the government probably cannot do legally, Big Business probably can.
Let’s call it “the Corporatocracy.” Here’s the idea: Rather than have the government pass a law or promulgate regulations requiring all of us to be vaccinated—which would be far easier said than done and be subjected to judicial challenge—corporations will simply do the dirty work.
The process would be frighteningly simple. The government would issue voluntary guidelines urging all citizens to be vaccinated and suggesting ways the private sector could assist in encouraging compliance. White House press secretary Jen Psaki put it this way: “A determination or development of a vaccine passport or whatever you want to call it will be driven by the private sector. Ours will more be focused on guidelines that can be used as a basis, and there are a couple key principles we’re working from.”20 In other words, the insidiously clever goal would be to sidestep the usual governing means of enacting public policies and to instead rely on the private sector to coerce vaccination compliance through “free market” mechanisms.
How would the vaccine passport system work? As described in the Washington Post,21 we would all have to download a vaccine “passport app” onto our smartphones—i.e., a scannable code that would prove we had been vaccinated (or for those without a phone, such a code could be printed). Once the system was operational, if you wanted to fly on a plane or get on a train, you would have to show your “passport.” Ditto when you attended a concert or sporting event. Eating dinner in a restaurant might also require proof of vaccination, perhaps even shopping in a mall or grocery store. And the beauty part from the perspective of the technocrats? The government would not be “forcing” anyone to do anything.
Experimenting on the Elderly: One would think that in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic bioethicists would place their dehumanizing advocacy efforts at least on temporary hold. Nope. During the worst of the plague, the Journal of Medical Ethics published a piece explicitly aimed at Covid-19 patients by the internationally prominent bioethicists and Oxford professors Julian Savulescu and Dominic Wilkinson.22 First, the authors urged that seriously ill Covid-19 patients be consensually experimented upon—even if the research is dangerous—if they signed an “advance directive for extreme altruism.”
That might seem reasonable—assuming the tests would be aimed at saving their lives. But the bioethicists want to include in the license potentially lethal experimentation that would not benefit the patient:
When a patient will certainly die [Note: Sometimes a mistaken diagnosis], they should be able to consent while competent to experimentation being performed on them for others, even if the experimentation may itself likely or possibly end their life sooner…. even if it would not benefit the patient and may even hasten their death.
The authors then boldly plunge even deeper into the utilitarian swamp to urge “organ donation euthanasia”—meaning killing the patient by taking the organs—of Covid-19 patients in places where hastening death by doctors is legal:
Organ donation euthanasia could possibly apply to some cases of Covid-19 where life prolonging medical treatment is either withdrawn or withheld. In those jurisdictions where euthanasia is legal (Netherlands, Belgium, etc.), euthanasia could occur by surgical removal of vital organs under deep anaesthesia.
Savulescu and Wilkinson would allow experimentation on nursing home patients—even if they are not sick:
Some residents in nursing homes and care facilities are competent. Some of these may choose to take on significant risks in the war on Covid-19…. They could also be allowed to consent, with full disclosure of risks and no pressure, to take part in risky research which would accelerate the discovery of vaccines or treatments.
To prevent unwanted burdening of medical resources if the patient becomes ill, the authors would restrict the experimentation to patients who had “completed a living will indicating that they would not wish for invasive medical treatments in the event of becoming seriously unwell,” meaning nursing home patients could be intentionally infected with coronavirus and then, if they became seriously ill, simply allowed to die.
Loosening the Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide Rules: It doesn’t take a prophet to know that the euthanasia movement would use the pandemic to promote their hastened death agenda. Compassion and Choices—formerly more honestly called the Hemlock Society—put out a fund-raising letter that sought to generate donations from the Covid crisis and loosen existing protective guidelines, stating:
As always, we are responding quickly to the needs and opportunities of the times. As the workforce grapples with the pandemic, telehealth is gaining prominence as a critical mode of delivering medical care. This provides a unique opportunity to make sure health systems and doctors are using telehealth, where appropriate, for patients trying to access end-of-life care options. These efforts should improve access to medical aid in dying in the short and long-term.23
Telehealth? Wesley, you mean assisted suicide by Zoom? Precisely. In the midst of the pandemic, the American Clinicians Academy on Medical Aid in Dying—a newly formed association of doctors who assist suicides—published formal guidelines to permit doctors to write lethal prescriptions after “examining” the patient via the internet. Specifically, the guidelines state that the examination should include a review of medical records and a video meeting via Zoom or Skype. The second opinion can simply be done by phone. This means that assisted suicides will be facilitated by doctors who never actually treated patients for their underlying illness, who may be ignorant of their family situations and personal histories, and who have never met their “patients” in the flesh.24
We know of at least one tragic euthanasia death caused by the patient’s reaction to the Covid crisis. An elderly Canadian patient named Nancy Russell wasn’t sick—there is a positive right in Canada to lethal injection euthanasia, but it is supposed to be limited to circumstances involving a diagnosed medical condition that causes irremediable suffering. Rather, when it looked like the 90-year-old would have to be confined to her room for two weeks, she asked for—and received—the lethal jab due to declining mental health and vitality. From the CTV story:
Russell, described by her family as exceptionally social and spry, was one such person. Her family says she chose a medically-assisted death (MAID) after she declined so sharply during lockdown that she didn’t want to go through more isolation this winter…This time, doctors approved her. Russell would not have to go through another lockdown in her care home. “She just truly did not believe that she wanted to try another one of those two-week confinements into her room,” her daughter said.
But note, for her death, she was permitted to be surrounded by friends and family!
When 90-year-old Nancy Russell died last month, she was surrounded by friends and family. They clustered around her bed, singing a song she had chosen to send her off, as a doctor helped her through a medically-assisted death.25
So companionship was permitted to be made dead but not to remain alive. And her family thinks this was a fine option, demonstrating how the social mindset becomes twisted by euthanasia consciousness. And here’s a bitter irony. Russell died just before the announcement that Covid vaccines were being approved, giving hope that further nursing home lockdowns would not be necessary.
Conclusion: The Future Looks Disturbingly Like the Present—Only More So
We are often told that adversity brings out the best in us. But it also can be a corrosive that illuminates weaknesses in vital social structures and threats of future erosion of societal norms. Such has been the response in bioethics and among the technocrats to Covid.
And don’t think that the threats I have highlighted here will disappear with the end of the Covid threat. To the contrary. The “experts” are already planning to use the threat of potential future pandemics to seize control of society and transfer power to unelected international technocratic “experts.”
How do I know? None other than Dr. Anthony Fauci told us so by audaciously declaring that preventing future infections requires the mindboggling task of “rebuilding the infrastructures of human existence.” Not only that, but he said that accomplishing these top-to-bottom “radical changes” requires “strengthening the United Nations and its agencies, particularly the World Health Organization (WHO).”
Fauci’s advocacy for essentially establishing an international rule-by-experts technocracy—co-authored with his National Institute senior adviser David M. Morens—appeared in the respected scientific journal Cell, an important peer-reviewed publication in which scientists usually share discoveries in fields such as stem cell research, genetics, and immunology.
Articles in Cell focus mostly on important but arcane technical issues of science and medicine. But with increasing frequency, such journals have lately pushed ideology, too—usually promoting left-wing and internationalist public policy prescriptions, such as that written by Fauci and Morens. To prevent future pandemics, the authors argue that virtually everything in society will have to be transformed, “from cities to homes to workplaces, to water and sewer systems, to recreational and gatherings venues.”26
The scope and breadth of their ambition is stunningly hubristic. “In such a transformation,” they write, “we will need to prioritize changes in those human behaviors that constitute risks for the emergence of infectious diseases. Chief among them are reducing crowding at home, work, and in public places as well as minimizing environmental perturbations such as deforestation, intense urbanization, and intensive animal farming.”
The authors quickly add, “Equally important are ending global poverty, improving sanitation and hygiene, and reducing unsafe exposure to animals, so that humans and potential human pathogens have limited opportunities for contact.” Holy cow!
Think about what all of that would take! At the very least, the gargantuan task would require unprecedented and intrusive government regulations and the transferring of policy control from the national to international level— nothing less than an international technocratic and authoritarian supra-governing system—with the power to direct how we interact with each other as family, friends, and in community.
This hyper-state would have to control how the economy operates, where we could build factories and plow farms. It would also determine how and where we live and what we eat, and permanently dictate when and if we can travel. And think about the cost and the means it would take to break inevitable popular resistance. No thanks!
As they say, forewarned is forearmed. My point in writing this essay wasn’t merely to highlight the many dehumanizing and invidiously discriminatory proposals—believe me, I have just scratched the surface—that have been made to materially undercut what remains of the sanctity-of-life ethic and strengthen “quality-of-life” approaches to healthcare. Rather, it is a warning of how profoundly the “do no harm” principle of the Hippocratic Oath has been corroded by the so-called experts—meaning that if we yield control of our health-care public policies to a bioethical technocracy, these are the immoral values likely to be imposed on all of us.
For our own safety and the safety of those we love—particularly the elderly, people with physical and developmental disabilities, and the seriously ill—we dare not ignore the threat and pretend it can’t happen here. Because it can, and—if we are complacent—it will.
1. Leo Alexander, MD, “Medical Science Under Dictatorship,” New England Journal of Medicine, July 14, 1949, reprint, p. 9.
2. Id., p. 11.
3. Some of the following material is adapted from Wesley J. Smith, Culture of Death, the Age of “Do Harm” Medicine (New York, Encounter Books, 2016).
4. Albert R. Jonsen, Mark Siegler, William J. Winslade, Clinical Ethics, Fourth Ed. (1998, McGraw-Hill, New York, NY), p. 108.
5. Peter Singer, Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics (New York, St. Martin’s Press), p. 191.
6. Some of the below is based on material that first appeared in Wesley J. Smith, “Defeating Technocracy is Crucial to Life,” Human Life Review, Winter 2021.
7. John H. Evans, The History and Future of Bioethics, a Sociological View (2011, Oxford University Press), pp. 122-123.
8. Klaus Schwab, “Now is a Time for a ‘Great Reset’ The World Economic Forum,” June 3, 2020 (Now is the time for a ‘great reset’ of capitalism, weforum.org).
9. Heritage Foundation, “COVID-19 Deaths by Age,” as of February 17, 2021 (COVID-19 Deaths by Age, heritage.org).
10. J. David Goodman, Jesse McKinley and Danny Hakim, “Cuomo Aides Spent Months Hiding Nursing Home Death Toll,” New York Times, April 28, 2021.
11. Charles Camosey, “Coronavirus Crisis: The Wrong Way to Decide Which Patients get Hospital Care,” New York Post, March 19, 2020: (Coronavirus crisis: Deciding how to prioritize hospital patients, nypost.com).
12. Michael Gold and Ed Shanahan, “What We Know About Cuomo’s Nursing Home Scandal,” New York Times, April, 28, 2021 (Andrew Cuomo and Nursing Home Deaths: What We Know, nytimes.com).
13. Ezekiel Emanuel, et al., “An Ethical Framework for International Vaccine Allocation,” Science, Vol. 369, Issue 6509, pp. 1309-1312, September 11, 2020 (An ethical framework for global vaccine allocation, sciencemag.org)
14. Ezekiel Emanuel, “Why I Hope to Die at 75,” The Atlantic, October 2014 (Why I Hope to Die at 75, theatlantic.com).
15. Larry R. Churchill, “On Being an Elder in a Pandemic,” Hastings Center, Bioethics Forum Essay,
April 13, 2020 (On Being an Elder in a Pandemic, thehastingscenter.org).
16. Ezekiel Emanuel, Aaron Glickman, and Amaya Diana, “These People Should be Required to Get Vaccinated,” New York Times, April 14, 2021 (Opinion | These People Should Be Required to Get Vaccinated, nytimes.com).
17. Alberto Giubilini, “Contact Tracing Apps and the Future Covid-19 Vaccine Should be Compulsory,” Practical Ethics, May6, 2020 (Contact-tracing apps and the future COVID-19 vaccination should be compulsory. Social, technological, and pharmacological immunisation,ox.ac.uk).
18. Jeffrey Sowders Podcast, “Crowdsource the Truth,” May 17, 2020. (1099) Alan Dershowitz: “You have no right to refuse to be vaccinated”—YouTube.
19. Massachusetts v. Jacobson, Supreme Court of the United States, 197 U.S. 11 (1905) (Jacobson
v. Massachusetts :: 197 U.S. 11 (1905) :: Justia US Supreme Court Center).
20. The White House, “Press Briefing by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki,” March 21, 2021 (Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, March 29, 2021, www.whitehouse.gov).
21. Dan Diamond, Lena H. Sun, and Isaac Stanley-Becker, “‘Vaccine Passports’ Are on the Way: But Developing Them Won’t be Easy,” Washington Post, March 28, 2021 (‘Vaccine passports’ are on the way, but developing them won’t be easy, www.washingtonpost.com).
22. Julian Savulescu and Dominic Wilkinson, “Extreme Altruism in a Pandemic,” Journal of Medical Ethics, April 23, 2020 (Extreme altruism in a pandemic | Journal of Medical Ethics blog, bmj.com).
23. As reported by Alex Schadenberg, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, “Assisted Suicide Lobby is using Covid 19 Virus to Promote Assisting Suicides via Telehealth.” March 20, 2020 (Euthanasia Prevention Coalition: Assisted Suicide lobby is using Covid 19 virus to promote assisting suicides via telehealth, alexschadenberg.blogspot.com).
24. American Clinicians Academy on Medical Aid in Dying, “Telemedicine Policy Recommendations,” 2021 (Telemedicine Policy Recommendations – American Clinicians Academy on Medical Aid in Dying, acamaid.org).
25. Avis Favaro, Elizabeth St. Phillip, Alexandra Mae Jones, “Facing Another Retirement Home Lockdown, 90-Year-Old Chooses Medically Assisted Death,” CTV, November 19, 2020 (Facing another retirement home lockdown, 90-year-old chooses medically assisted death, CTV News).
26. David M. Morens and Anthony S. Fauci, “Emerging Pandemic Diseases: How We Got to COVID-19,” Cell, 182, September 3, 2020 (Emerging Pandemic Diseases: How We Got to COVID-19, cell.com).
Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism and a consultant to the Patient’s Rights Council. In May 2004, Smith was named one of the nation’s premier thinkers in bioengineering by the National Journal because of his work in bioethics. In 2008, the Human Life Foundation named him a Great Defender of Life.