Moral Dilemma: Honesty vs. Aid

Green Genius says:

Dear Atheist, once while working with a Hindu Surgeon we were about to put a late middle aged sort of red necked women under for a procedure when she said “Dr before I will let you operate on me I must know if you believe in God?”. And he said “Yes, Yes Mam I do”. Well I am an atheist and I still wonder what I would of said if she would of asked me? If you were in this situation what would you have said, being an atheist?

One Response to Moral Dilemma: Honesty vs. Aid

  1. The Atheist says:

    That’s an interesting dilemma! Let me preface my answer of what I personally would do by admitting that, if confronted suddenly by a question of this sort, without the benefit of any time to mull it over, I might simply “punt” and admit to being an atheist.

    Now, having had a moment to reflect on the significance of the question in the context of my personal values, I still arrive at the same conclusion. The reason is this: people have the right to act upon what they believe is right. This right isn’t without bounds, it should be weighed against the risk of harm to others. But in this instance, if the patient decides not to let the atheist physician proceed with the surgery, then she is causing risk only herself. She may also be costing the hospital unnecessary expense, but I think this consequence is secondary to the issue of personal well being and rights.

    Further, I don’t feel I have the right to misrepresent myself to the patient. Even if I feel certain she will make a bad decision based on my honest answer, she has the right to her decision. One may say that I could achieve the greater good by lying so that the patient undergoes the operation. The problem is that we don’t have the right to define what is “good” for others who are competent to decide for themselves.

    This raises a secondary question: who do we deem competent to decide what is good for them?

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