When his teenaged son Christopher, brain-damaged in an auto accident, developed a 106-degree fever following weeks of unconsciousness, John Campbell asked the attending physician for help. The doctor refused. Why bother? The boy’s life was effectively over. Campbell refused to accept this verdict. He demanded treatment and threatened legal action. The doctor finally relented. With treatment, Christopher’s temperature subsided almost immediately. Soon afterwards he regained consciousness and today he is learning to walk again.
This story is one of many Wesley J. Smith recounts in his groundbreaking book, Culture of Death. Smith believes that American medicine “is changing from a system based on the sanctity of human life into a starkly utilitarian model in which the medically defenseless are seen as having not just a ‘right’ but a ‘duty’ to die.” Going behind the current scenes of our health care system, he shows how doctors withdraw desired care based on Futile Care Theory rather than providing it as required by the Hippocratic Oath. And how “bioethicists” influence policy by considering questions such as whether organs may be harvested from the terminally ill and disabled. This is a passionate, yet coolly reasoned book about the current crisis in medical ethics by an author who has made “the new thanatology” his consuming interest.