COVID-19 vaccination more important than personal liberty

Stop going against the Hippocratic Oath



The COVID-19 vaccination mandate for hospitals resulted in many outraged medical professionals. Where should the line be drawn regarding personal liberty and public health?

SAMANTHA RADCLIFFE, Evergreen columnist

Editor’s note: All names have been changed for the sources’ protection.

In early August, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a mandate that requires healthcare workers and many others to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or face losing their jobs. Naturally, there are many outraged healthcare workers due to this requirement, resulting in several public protests. 

Many medical professionals believe the mandate takes away their personal liberty. But is it not their job to protect patients against COVID-19?

This pandemic has forced our society to, yet again, engage in the infamous debate of personal liberty versus public safety.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, personal liberty is “the freedom of the individual to do as he pleases limited only by the authority of politically organized society to regulate his action to secure the public health, safety, or morals or of other recognized social interests,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

To me, it seems like many medical professionals are disregarding the part of the definition where it states “to regulate his actions to secure public health.” Medical professionals cannot claim this pandemic is taking away their personal liberty when the very definition states that personal liberty can be regulated to ensure public health security.

This pandemic is a threat to public health and safety! We, as a society, need to regulate personal liberty to ensure more lives are not lost. Why is that so hard to comprehend?

Bobby Ricky, current nurse for Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, MI, said his experience requires that the safety of medical officials are put before patients. 

“Throughout my education and career as a nurse, the number one priority is ensuring that the nurse and the ‘scene’ are safe before any interventions are implemented,” he said. “Nurses have always been taught that their safety is the number one priority and the patient second.”

Rickysaid the mandate for the COVID-19 vaccine emphasizes hospitals value patients more thantheir staff. However, looking at public safety regarding COVID-19, he believes the safety of patients does outweigh the personal liberty that hospitals are taking away. 

From an outsider’s perspective, I always believed medical professionals understood their job is inherently selfless. They take care of those who do not have the knowledge to do so.

Thus, I do not understand why some medical professionals do not view the situation like Ricky. If medical professionals continue to refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccination, more deaths will occur because of their selfish decision — deaths that could easily be prevented. 

So, why do some medical professionals continue to try and fulfill a selfish desire that could possibly end with death on their hands?

“I don’t believe that the hospitals should be forcing termination based on personal liberty and [instead] should be working with employees to find accommodation,” Ricky said.

I, and everyone else in the country, need to see these accommodations encompass the safety of the patients. For medical professionals to deny receiving the COVID-19 vaccination because of personal reasons — of course, excluding health reasons — is completely self-serving and disgusting. 

Daisy Stone, another current nurse for Henry Ford Hospital, expressed similar thoughts on the situation. 

“Roughly 633,000 people have died from COVID-19. Now, there is an FDA-approved vaccine, and people [still] don’t want to get it,” she said. “I just don’t understand.”

However, Stone said most people have not seen what she has seen while working as a nurse in the peak of the deadly pandemic and thus do not fully comprehend the heartbreaking reality for those infected with COVID-19.

“I have watched family members call their loved ones to tell them that they were being placed on a breathing machine and did not know when they will be able to see each other again,” she said. “I have held patients’ hands and told them to keep fighting as they slipped into a sedated state.”

Stone said this upsetting reality contributed to her approval of the COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

“Obviously patient safety is a number one priority,” she said. “So how are you [medical professionals] going to care for someone when you are out with an illness that is now preventable?”

As a result of the COVID-19 vaccination mandate and the pandemic in general, there is an evident shortage of healthcare workers.

Ricky proposed a few solutions to this problem. Hospitals could bring in agency nurses – a type of nurse that pick up jobs in different states. They could also limit the medical professionals’ ability to take patients in order to decrease unsafe nursing ratios.

For this solution to succeed, hospitals would have to consider the safety issues of patients and nurses and the increased responsibility of the nurses, which could potentially push many others out of the medical profession, Ricky said.

Like Ricky, Stone experienced a shortage of doctors and nurses because people do not want to be exposed to the deadly disease. But the COVID-19 vaccination mandate further increased the shortage of staff members, Stone said. 

“Unfortunately, all jobs have [vaccination] mandates that employees have to follow,” she said. “Many hospitals have nicotine-free campuses and employees and an annual flu vaccine mandate [on top of the COVID-19 vaccination].”

Personally, I do not believe this debate should even be happening within the healthcare field. The Hippocratic Oath, a sworn agreement made by physicians, includes a promise to help the ill and not cause harm.

If medical professionals agreed to this oath, then they should not be fighting against the COVID-19 vaccination mandate. They would be causing harm to the COVID-19-infected patients if they refused to get the vaccination. If they cannot fully abide by the oath, then why did they choose to be a medical professional in the first place? The career requires to put yourself before others.

Like Stone said during the interview: this isn’t a political issue; it’s a medical crisis! We need to put aside our political differences and fight against this deadly disease. So, get the vaccine.