Stigma and Sympathy

This Law & Liberty essay concerning drug addiction is why our website is named The Skeptical Doctor. I only wish that the New England Journal of Medicine would publish this brilliant rebuttal.

The harm that Dr. Volkow inadvertently does is to turn huge numbers of people from agents and subjects into objects. If she succeeds in persuading, or even half-persuading, them that that is what they are, she has dehumanised them, both for herself and for themselves. If from a great height of authority you tell people that they are helpless, that is what they will become, especially when they derive some kind of self-destructive short-term benefit from being or acting helpless, such as the ability to continue to take drugs in the knowledge that it is not their fault.

One thought on “Stigma and Sympathy

  1. RV

    He quotes what is one of Chesterton’s most insightful observations about our post-Christian world – the Christian virtues gone mad (truth without pity and pity without truth).

    “The Christian view (I say this as a non-believer) is that we are all women taken in adultery, so to speak. If we withdraw sympathy from sinners, and deny assistance to any but those who are completely innocent, we deny sympathy and assistance to the whole of Mankind.”

    Pity and truth (and mercy and justice) must work hand in hand. It’s hard to balance such unwieldy giants, and God knows we fail, but we must keep trying.


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