In Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s novel Kavanagh, he writes, “we judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.” This could be interpreted as “every action has good intentions.” For example, I think that all of the Nazi scientists, whose experiments were abhorrent, had reasons that justified their actions. As bad as their actions were, the experiments did produce information with scientific value and real applications that could help people. They may have actually held the belief that they were doing a service for humanity. A less extreme example are the doctors that contributed to the opioid epidemic by overprescribing painkillers. I’m sure that most of the doctors felt that their prescription of painkillers was truly in their patients’ best interests. My point is not that all actions should go unpunished; it’s actually the opposite. I think as future health care professionals, we should always try to judge ourselves by our actions and the consequences of those actions, regardless of intention. The consequences of health care professionals only directly affect one person, the patient, and the health professionals’ intentions usually shouldn’t have bearing on how decisions are made. In other words, health care should be a service focused around the patient, and no one else.
It’s very important to learn about these things because, as Adam said in lecture, the past explains the future. It can teach us and help us understand how to fix things. With knowledge of Tuskegee, we can attribute part of racial health care disparities to African Americans’ perceptions of doctors and health care. This information gives us very valuable insight into places to start when trying to fix these types of problems.