Iatrogenics and the morality of the COVID-19 Lock-down

I was recently introduced to a new medical term while listening to a recording of Nassim Taleb’s book Antifragile. In this book he engages with the medical system and science at various points. I am engaging with what Taleb writes as someone with a BA and an MDiv.

“Iatrogenic” is something relating to illness caused by medical examination or treatment. Iatrogenics is when a treatment causes more harm than benefit. After hearing more about “Iatrogenics,” the old hyppocratic oath to do no harm is not as black and white as it immediately appears to be.

Many might argue for the current lock-down on the basis of the public safety. But it does not appear to me that things are that black and white. Especially in light of iatrogenics.

For example, many patients are not warned of the side-affects of various drugs and prescriptions. If you listen to this interview of Jordan Peterson by his daughter Mikhaila, you will hear his experience with an “iatrogenic result from his treatment.” His account has brought many other cases to public attention. I have talked to various people who have taken certain antidepressants and they are not really sure whether these meds have caused more harm than good. I am not arguing against them. I am just recognizing that there are harmful side-effects.

Here I speak of side-effects whether intended or unintended. I prefer to think that they are unintended, but we must never undermine the nature of sin. I haven’t even addressed the clear and direct harm that doctors are willing to do to people through abortion, doctor assisted suicide and euthanasia. I think some medical professionals are confused about the nature of the hyppocratic oath they took… We live in a culture of death. But I digress…

All of this lead me to reflect more on COVID-19. Recently, some Christians have popped up out of the wood-work to claim the “pro-life position” in the COVID-19 debates. They may have been barely involved in the pro-life movement. But apparently the science proves that many Christians are unloving and even murderous if they push back against COVID restrictions. But these arguments enter into a murky territory of subjectivity and trade-offs which could potentially prove to be very immoral.

Questions abound. I have written publicly on the issue of the “side-effects” of our response to COVID-19. These include mental illness, social division, and economic devastation for small businesses.

My debate with “the science” is not whether every individual scientist and/or medical professional sees a man or a woman simply as a physical being. But our response has not taken into consideration the fact that sin is in the medical system. Our response has not taken into consideration the spiritual side to this situation. For years we have been fighting for the lives of the unborn and the elderly. All of a sudden with COVID our medical system has become saintly?

Many Christian counselors these days are taking a holistic approach to counselling. They are encouraging people to take health measures and go to doctors within a framework of Biblical counseling. I believe and argue that this is an excellent thing to do. Reformed Christians believe that men and women are created with both a body and a soul, both of which have been affected by the consequences of Adam’s sin. They are inter-connected. It should not exclude what I call nouthetic counseling, which deals with the root issues of sin, whether the individual has committed it or it has been done to the individual.

Our medical system does not appear to take this holistic approach. And even denies the spiritual aspect of these matters. At least in the over-arching system. There are definitely those who push against the pressure towards scientific consensus. Encouraging parents to cover their faces in front of their kids, and encouraging “physical distancing” in the schools, does not take into account many different human needs. Even Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto argued against that. Kudos to them. If you look at psychiatry and similar lines of study, many are not allowed to recognize a spiritual element. Doctors have been kicked out for helping patients in the name of Christ. Read “Psychobabble” by Dr. Richard Ganz.

Vaccines themselves (which I neither promote nor discourage) may have iatrogenic effects. A healthy skepticism is… healthy. Vaccine injury is not an uncommon circumstance. While Quebec is the only province in Canada with a system for compensation for vaccine injury the States deals out millions a year in compensation. The connection between vaccines and big pharma as well as the fact that some vaccine-makers have no liability should be a matter of concern or at least serious questioning. Yes, certain diseases have been eliminated and there appears to be a strong connection to vaccines. But how many kids have been killed or damaged by the cure? Again. This is where we get into thorny moral territory. Especially in the area of mandatory vaccinations.

If anyone wonders where I got this from. I recently read this in an article promoting vaccines: “At a population level, these rare risks are far outweighed by the benefits of the high uptake in the vaccination. However, this implies that, in rare instances, an individual will suffer from significant consequences for the benefit of others, and that such an event can be anticipated (expected, even), though not necessarily predicted at the individual level.”

The matter of iatrogenics should not be lightly dismissed in any situation. The history of medical theory has been a history of iatrogenics. I am the recipient of unknown substances and the subject of hypotheses that are still being tested. I should challenge these things holistically and think them through rationally. Above all, as a Christian, I am called to subject them to Biblical principle and reasoning.

How should Christians live and think in an era of medical and scientific power? I’m not telling you which side of a medical issue to take a stand on. But think about this. Modern intellectuals have dealt out a strong dose of skepticism with regards to the authority of Scripture. But where does their authority come from? Apart from the revelation of God which brings us not only to see the appearances, but also what lies behind the appearances, will they promote less than moral solutions to the thorny ethical issues of the day? Christians need to seek ethical answers from the Word of God.

Conversations and discussions are good and helpful in society and it is fine for people to lie on the opposite sides of an issue. But don’t buy into the philosophy that science is neutral. It also must be tested with Biblical ethics. Taleb made this point well.

Listen to Taleb’s book Antifragile. Test every spirit. Read the Scriptures. Be humble. Seek the truth.

Photo by Hans Reniers on Unsplash