Medical Malpractice?

Is medicine an “art” or a “science”?  What is the difference?  Consider the building of the World Trade Towers…  The strength of the materials used in their construction was well known to a high degree.  The buildings were designed to withstand natural forces such as  strong winds (think Hurricane Sandy).  There was also consideration taken regarding a fire on one of the floors.  Supposedly there was some consideration given to an airplane striking one of the buildings.  However, it appears that the engineers didn’t consider what would happen if a large airliner with full fuel tanks actually plowed straight into the buildings.  The temperature of the burning fuel eventually caused the structural steel that supported the structures to “soften” and then fail, causing the buildings to collapse down upon themselves as was vividly shown on television that day, September 11, 2001.  So we could say that the engineering of the buildings failed to withstand what supposedly they should have withstood.  There wasn’t sufficient reserve strength…

Medicine on the other hand isn’t “precise” to anywhere near the same extent as modern construction engineering is.  Structural steel of a certain grade is expected to behave in a known way under stress.  But the reaction of the human body varies a great deal in its own response to medication.  The same medicine that will perform well on one person might have adverse effects upon another person.  The cause of this is genetic variation.  Human beings each have their genetic code that is slightly different from that of any other person.  This is why we can use “DNA” as a means of identification much like fingerprints are used.  Supposedly no two people have the exact same DNA code.  Just as supposedly no two people have the same fingerprints.  Because of this, human response to medicine is not always the same.  My wife can take penicillin.  To me penicillin is a deadly poison that at one time almost cost me my life.  The reason for this is “genetic”.  So if a doctor was to inject me with a large amount of penicillin, it might well be fatal.  Would this be considered “malpractice”?  Only if the doctor knew beforehand that I was allergic to penicillin.  The same thing applies to many other medicines.  The cholesterol medication I’m on works fine on me, but doesn’t work on my wife.  Why?  Genetics.  So she has to take a different medicine for her cholesterol than I do.  What all of this means is that medicine itself is still an “art”, not a “science” where we have established knowledge as to the nature and effectiveness of the material used.  The doctor operates on “educated guesswork”, whereas the engineer works with established knowledge.  The doctor has to try out various medicines until he or she finds one that actually works.  In a Libertarian society which would not have prescription laws, the individual would have much the same problems, at least in some matters.  There is a lot of “trial and error” in medicine.  But an engineer working in construction deals with materials of known quality.

The closest thing we could have in medicine that would be “malpractice” would be a failure to take necessary precautions based upon what knowledge was available.  Which is an entirely different issue than what we’d have in dealing with a similar problem in engineering.  What we have in medicine is a very large “gray area” where nothing is really “cut and dried”.  A place where “educated guesswork” is the best anyone can be expected to do!  It is past due time that this fact was realized by legislatures that deal with “malpractice”…



About muskegonlibertarian

77 year old retired owner of a security guard agency. Member of the Libertarian Party.
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