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Letters to the Editor

Physician defines a challenging government dilemma

/ 01:19 AM March 18, 2017

Death in any form is repulsive, particularly to physicians who have the vocation, professional training and commitment to delay or postpone it. Therefore, ethically, physicians are mandated not to participate in the imposition of death penalty.

In school we learned that man is partly animal and partly human. He reacts to internal sensual stimuli and to the environment based on instinct and reason. Whichever dominates in him will define his response (instinctive or rational), which in turn categorizes him how much animalistic he has become or human he has remained.

In neurophysiology we learned that under a normal state of mind, man’s instincts of self-interest and his rationality are in equilibrium. When consciousness or cognition is fed with profound affective challenges, the resultant change will tip the balance accordingly, and the decision or reaction will rest on whether it was made instinctively (by the animal) or rationally (by the man) in the human person.


There are psychotic states when mental derangement is extensive and permanent and, therefore, incorrigible or incurable by means of psychiatric persuasion or medical management—such that an individual, although still human in form, is animal in instinct and response. These are the sick criminals in incurable rapists, serial killers and murderers; and they should be incarcerated for life to protect society from harm. In other countries without appropriate facilities, they are executed.

In the Philippine Medical Association, severely psychotic individuals need to be institutionalized and rehabilitated. Those beyond cure should be confined in “perpetua” to protect them from self-inflicted harm and save society from becoming victims of heinous crimes.

However, physicians are optimistic that technical progress in medical science will lead to the discovery of a new, effective cure to the problem. The question is how much more time it would take to get this dream realized.

Meanwhile, will the government provide enough financial support to have these “animals in human forms” confined and rehabilitated, or will the government be remiss in its civil duty of protecting prospective victims of their cruelty.

SANTIAGO A. DEL ROSARIO, MD, chair, Commission of Ethics, Philippine Medical Association

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TAGS: capital punishment, death penalty, Inquirer letters, Inquirer Opinion, Santiago A. del Rosario
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