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Choose Your Own Adventure!


Caitlin Bootsma - published on 07/03/14

"So your dentist is a killer" and other tales of material cooperation.

Did you ever read the Choose Your Own Adventure stories when you were a kid, or have children who are hooked on the format? Unlike regular books﹘where you start on page 1 and read all the way to the end﹘with Choose Your Own Adventure stories, you read up to the point where the character (you) has to make a decision. Depending on your decision, you’ll be directed to flip to one page or another,  where the story continues based on how you decided to proceed. These books give children the opportunity to discover whether their choices were right or wrong and what consequences could result from their decisions.

So, I present to you, in abbreviated form, a Choose Your Own Adventure. See if you can avoid material cooperation with evil.

One day you visit your dentist* for your regular checkup. You are greeted by a smiling receptionist. A hygienist cleans your teeth. The dentist checks your mouth and takes an X-ray. All’s fine. On your way out, you spot a door that’s ajar, leading to a room you hadn’t noticed before. Do you leave the office as planned or peek in the room?

Let’s say you choose to satisfy your curiosity.

In that room, to your horror, your dentist is holding one of his instruments, but he’s not fixing anyone’s teeth. The patient who walked into the dentist’s office right ahead of you, the one you watched getting signed in by the nice receptionist, is now strapped into the chair, unable to move. The dentist bends over, his bald head illuminated by the annoying megawatt lights so common in dentist offices. He’s using the instrument to kill the patient. Without realizing that you are watching him, too shocked to move, he disposes of the body before returning to clean another patient’s teeth.

Your next and final choice? Do you act as if nothing happened and, before leaving, schedule your next appointment with the receptionist? Or, do you run out of that office (never to return again) and tell the police and everyone you know that your dentist kills people?

The choice seems obvious. Who would want to have dental or medical work done by a professional who kills people? Additionally, in paying this dental office for your care, your money also contributes to the salary of the friendly receptionist who checked in the murdered patient, the cost of dental instrument used to kill him, and the utilities used to keep an office going where people are sometimes killed. In other words, if you remained a patient at that dental office, you would materially cooperate (however unintentionally or remotely) with the murders being committed there.

The choice to leave the dentist’s office seems obvious, but when we change the context to discuss abortion, many people seem to think of the choices differently.

Here in Richmond, VA, there is a hospital with a wonderful team of doctors and midwives and a state-of-the-art Labor and Delivery unit. I know, I recently delivered my second baby via VBAC there and was very happy with my experience. After the birth of my son, however, the hospital hired an abortionist. This abortionist will not only complete (legal) elective abortions, she will also be on the roster of MDs who deliver babies and handle intake appointments for newly pregnant mothers.

Like the scenario in the imaginary dental office, I and many other mothers are faced with a choice. We can retain the services of this otherwise extraordinary clinic and team of doctors, or we can find somewhere else to receive OB-GYN care. The decision is more difficult than it would seem, particularly because this hospital has unique qualities such as a low c-section rate, top-rated midwives, and a high rate of successful VBACs. But, if we stay, our insurance money and our copays will be helping to finance an OB-GYN office and Labor and Delivery unit that performs abortions.

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