“The Forgotten Man of Socialized Medicine”—and us
During a meeting today, my colleagues and I were discussing the frightening prospect that socialized medicine is right around the corner. Obamacare is not being opposed on any principled grounds—the only real dispute appears to be over the details, such as its projected cost. So if you are counting on somebody, like the Republicans, stepping in to rescue us from this impending disaster, think again.
I emigrated from Canada some time ago and at that point, one of the significant differences between the two countries was their respective approaches to health care. A relatively free market in health insurance and health care rather than a monolithic government-managed system? Terrific! You mean I’m not stuck on a long waiting list in order to see whichever doctors the government allows people in my geographic area to see? Wonderful!
Should President Obama succeed in implementing “health care reforms,” those last remaining advantages of the American health care system will disappear. That would be disastrous for all of us, but it would be especially devastating for the medical profession.
In Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, there’s a minor character, a brain surgeon named Dr. Hendricks, who refused to practice under a socialized medicine. This excerpt (reprinted in “For the New Intellectual”) explains why Dr. Hendricks decided to shrug:
“I quit when medicine was placed under State control some years ago,” said Dr. Hendricks. “Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I could not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun. I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, or the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward. I observed that in all the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything—except the desires of the doctors. Men considered only the ‘welfare’ of the patients, with no thought for those who were to provide it. That a doctor should have any right, desire or choice in the matter, was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, but ‘to serve.’ That a man’s willing to work under compulsion is too dangerous a brute to entrust with a job in the stockyards—never occurred to those who proposed to help the sick by making life impossible for the healthy. I have often wondered at the smugness at which people assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind—yet what is it they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands? Their moral code has taught them to believe that it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims. Well, that is the virtue I have withdrawn. Let them discover the kind of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover, in their operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it—and still less safe, if he is the sort who doesn’t.”
Instead of bickering about the price tag of Obamacare, it’s time to fight the battle against socialized medicine on moral grounds. It’s time for doctors to defend their moral right to practice medicine free from government interference. And it’s time for their patients to defend their moral right to purchase health care on a free market.