Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus isn’t afraid of a slippery slope. In fact, she’s prepared to jump onto her sled and slide down headfirst:

This sounds promising, doesn’t it? Here’s how it starts out:

I’m going to come right out and say it: In situations where hospitals are overwhelmed and resources such as intensive care beds or ventilators are scarce, vaccinated patients should be given priority over those who have refused vaccination without a legitimate medical or religious reason.

This conflicts radically with accepted medical ethics, I recognize. And under ordinary circumstances, I agree with those rules. The lung cancer patient who’s been smoking two packs a day for decades is entitled to the same treatment as the one who never took a puff. The drunk driver who kills a family gets a team doing its utmost to save him — although, not perhaps, a liver transplant if he needs one. Doctors are healers, not judges.

But the coronavirus pandemic, the development of a highly effective vaccine, and the emergence of a core of vaccine resisters along with an infectious new variant have combined to change the ethical calculus. Those who insist on refusing the vaccine for no reason are not in the same moral position of the smoker with lung cancer or the drunk driver. In situations where resources are scarce and hard choices must be made, they are not entitled to the same no-questions-asked, no-holds-barred medical care as others who behaved more responsibly.

We’re sure you can see where the rest of Marcus’ piece is going.

Despite any efforts to convince us otherwise, Ruth Marcus’ argument is not in good faith. It’s actually pretty terrifying.

No, really. She said that:

One argument against this position is that it puts health-care providers on a slippery slope toward becoming free-ranging moral arbiters. Nope, I don’t think the slope is unduly slippery. This is a unique setting that combines the availability of lifesaving treatment, the imperative of individual responsibility and the attendant, pandemic-created shortage of resources. Carving out a justifiable exception from ethical rules doesn’t mean risking that they will be routinely ignored.

What could possibly go wrong?

Like we said: Ruth Marcus is not arguing in good faith.

Well, Marcus did just that. So.

Ruth apparently thinks that medical ethics aren’t all they’re cracked up to be and need to catch up with the times.


Maybe people like Ruth Marcus whose consciences are already on life support should also be refused medical treatment.

We absolutely will.