| Home >> Philosophy

The Poisoned Pill of Doctor Patch Adams

Jean-Antoine Watteau. The Savoyard with a Marmot.
The good old days, when the village fool wasn't called "Doctor".
(Jean-Antoine Watteau. The Savoyard with a Marmot. Source)

1) Introduction

On February 9, 2005, at the Capitol in Quebec City, approximately 800 medical students from Laval University listened to a conference-show given by Doctor Patch Adams (www.patchadams.org). Dr. Adams is world-renown among others for his promotion of the positive effects of humor on heath, and a film has even been made based on his life, starring Robin Williams.

Based on the enthusiastic cheering and the rave reviews, Dr. Adam's "pill" was swallowed with great pleasure by the crowd.

2) The pill's sweet coating

We must say that the pill was delicious! Dr. Adams is a good clown! With his "fart balloons" which can liven up any elevator, or his elephant-sized panties in which a half-dozen people can fit, or his baggy pants which can morph into a dress, or into a strange alien life form, the crowd had plenty of reasons to laugh!

But Dr. Adams doesn't only know how to make people laugh, and his video showing the sufferings of poor children made many eyes watery. He also attracts much sympathy with his positions in favor of Mother Nature and against the greedy and power-hungry multinational corporations.

To make a long story short, the coating on Dr. Adams' pill is composed of emotions, lots of very sweet emotions. But emotions eventually disappear, and what influences the intellectual organism of a spectator are ideas, even if the spectator doesn't realize this as it's happening.

3) The pill's active ingredient

After having anaesthetized the audience, Dr. Adams started to actually transmit the active content of his message. In my opinion, it can be summarized thus:

An eggbeater doesn't have value in itself, but is a pure instrument designed to beat eggs. If eggs disappear, the eggbeater doesn't have any reason to exist anymore, and we can eliminate it.

It's the same thing for men. A man is a purely material instrument which exists to feel physical pleasure. If his possibilities of having physical pleasure are reduced, or if he hinders somebody else's pleasure, a man no longer has a reason to exist, and must be eliminated, by himself or by someone else, wilfully or otherwise.

"Pharmacists of the soul" will here recognize the active ingredients of Nihilism, Ethical Relativism, and Atheism.

Of course, Dr. Adams didn't present his philosophical theory so clearly, but it's possible to reverse-engineer it by analysing his many assertions:

3.1) Assisted suicide. Dr. Adams bragged about helping many patients commit suicide. If a human life has more value than the mere physical pleasure it can provide, then a human life, even when broken by suffering, must be respected. But if we are purely material instruments, then a "physician" will have the duty, not to save lives, but to judge which "human instruments" can still experience pleasure, and which ones have to free up their hospital beds...

3.2) Unrestricted abortion. Dr. Adams clearly said he supported unrestricted abortion. But, if a human life has value in itself, then a physician will seek out other ways to help a woman, like adoption, or financial and family help so this woman can keep her child, not to mention a determined fight against the horrible social conditions (bad films, pornography, debasing ads, etc.) which entice young people to have sex outside marriage. But if the child is only a material instrument, and he can harm the mother's capacity to seek pleasure, then you should chuck the darn thing into the dumpster!

3.3) Human love reduced to its genital aspects. Dr. Adams even recited a semi-pornographic poem which praised the idolatry of physical pleasure ("I have become the fundamentalist of your body"). If human persons are not purely material instruments, the conjugal act will be esteemed, but not as much as Charity (also known as "Agape", or oblative love). But if we're only material instruments capable of pleasure, the paragon of "love" will be the mere rubbing of one skin against the next.

3.4) Men dragged down to the level of other animals. Under the pretext of defending Mother Nature (which is a very worthy cause in itself), Dr. Adams falsely claims that pollution is caused by the idea that men are distinct from all the other animals. On several occasions, Dr. Adams vociferated against the idea that men could be essentially distinct from all other animals.

3.5) Morbid fear of death. Dr. Adams bragged on several occasions of having clowned at the deathbed of thousands of people. If we are more than purely material instruments, then the issue of death is the most serious we can be confronted to. "It is in the face of death that the enigma of the human condition reaches its crucial point. Man is not only tormented by pain and the gradual falling apart of his body, but worse, by the fear of a definitive destruction" [Gaudium et Spes, #18]. If we are more than pure material instruments, then the question of God appears. But if we are only "purely material pleasure-seeking machines", then the best we can do when confronted with death is to try to "squeeze the lemon" one last time, to try to entertain ourselves one last time.

4) Did Dr. Patch Adams really say that?

Did Dr. Patch Adams really say that? I was there, from beginning to end. Can we really draw such conclusions based on what Dr. Adams said? I studied Philosophy for five years at Laval University, and I'm willing and able to walk through the logical inferences which lead to the core of Dr. Adams thought. Do Dr. Adams' theories have potentially serious consequences? Yes, in my opinion. Young medical students, probably untrained in philosophical critical thinking skills, might be influenced in their Medical practice by such theories. Does this mean you are in favor of pollution, and against humor? Of course not! Dr. Adams does many good things, and I have nothing against the coating on his pill! So, you claim that Dr. Adams is a nasty scumbag? Not at all! Actually, it's quite possible that Dr. Adams doesn't clearly see all the negative consequences of his theories.

5) Conclusion

Nihilism, Ethical Relativism and Atheism are not demonstrated by double blind clinical trials. These are philosophical positions, and not among the best you can get, in my opinion!

Doctor Patch Adams was able to present his philosophical theories in ideal conditions for propaganda: ambiance lighting in the evening, alcoholic beverages, swooning crowd, etc.

I'm throwing down a challenge to the people who organized that show:

Give the same medical students the possibility of seeing the other side of the story. Moreover, do this in conditions ideal,  not for propaganda, but for thought: a classroom in broad daylight, with no alcohol, desks so students can take notes, and especially, especially TWO microphones on the stage, not just one.

If Laval University and the SSQ Corporation want to subsidize Dr. Adams' nihilist propaganda, it's their money. But if they want to poison a whole generation of physicians, then there is another "clown" who wants to come onto the scene, and he's not laughing at all.

| Home >> Philosophy