Medical Marijuana – a Dopey Idea?
Dr Gregory K Pike
Director, Adelaide Centre for Bioethics and Culture
As long as humans have suffered from ailments, medicine has sought treatments. To attempt to alleviate suffering is a mark of the better face of humanity, or at least recognition that we all, at one time or another, are subject to illnesses that need relief. Hence, maladies are markers of our shared condition and an opportunity for our better qualities to find expression.
The search for healing has taken many turns down the centuries, and along the way there have been good and bad treatments, effective ones, futile ones, burdensome ones, ‘miraculous’ ones, deceptive ones and downright dangerous ones. Just as humans can act wisely or foolishly, so treatments have been wisely or foolishly developed and employed. And noble motives are no guarantee that genuinely good treatments will be used.
As the scientific enterprise has grown and understanding of human biology advanced, so has our understanding of the biological basis of medicine. While our knowledge is far from complete, modern medicine now has an impressive array of treatments, and in many cases cures. There will always be mistakes, more inquiry, refinement, and new discoveries, but the general trend is moving forwards with hope for improvements and new ways of alleviating human suffering. Modern medicine is not only built upon understanding human biology, but also upon an understanding of human nature itself. This is where a proper appreciation of human nature aligns with an ethical framework directed towards the good of the person receiving treatment.
Hence, medicine has always developed codes of ethics that serve as a foundation or point of constant referral against which the discipline measures any new development. A sound ethical framework also recognizes the place of the patient within a community and also the unique nature of the relationship between patient and physician.
It is within this broad context that the question of medical marijuana needs to be considered.