Political Interference in Medicine
JULY 01, 1969 by RICHARD E. HUNT
Dr. Hunt is in the solo private practice of anesthesiology in Santa Rosa, Calif. He received his doctor of medicine degree from Cornell U. Medical College, New York. His article is reprinted here by permission from The AMA (American Medical Association) News of October 28, 1968.
In trying to define the nature of current problems in human relations it is essential to first define man’s basic nature. Behavior then in keeping with this basic nature will lead to harmony and happiness in human existence, the aim of all rational, moral men.
Man is a being of volitional consciousness. He is constantly faced with the choice of thinking rationally or evading reality. Knowledge comes from his conscious perception of his environment, that is the real world in which he lives, concepts are then formed based on reality as it exists and the integration of these concepts leads to advances as yet undreamed of.
We all have only one basic right and that is the right to lead our own life and seek our own happiness. Man has sole, individual responsibility for his actions (his life) and must assume these responsibilities. We are not all equal in any ability. Each one of us is different. Each one of us has strengths and weaknesses in mind and body, and it is immoral for one to gain strength by exploiting the weakness of another; just as it is immoral for one to use his weakness as a claim on another’s strength. Only through evasions, lies, and tricks is one able to avoid punishment for his errors and reward for his accomplishments. There is no status quo; there are no guarantees of success; there is no basic minimum; and by the same line of reasoning there are no limits to the productivity of men’s minds under a system of free, voluntary cooperation.
Our country was founded to assure "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" for all who would pursue these goals, not for any one segment of the population, not just for the politicians, not just for the white people, not just for the Negro people. We all have the right to lead our own lives. All the other things currently referred to as such are not rights. They are privileges. Education, automobiles, medical care, color TV, good housing, etc. are all basically produced by the conscious effort of men’s minds and they must be earned by the recipients. If they are not, if they are taken by force, legislative action, lies or tricks from the people who produce them and given to others simply because someone says he needs them, there is the immediate creation of the old slave-master relationship. In this case we have the absurd situation of the producer being the slave of the man who "needs" his product because the government has forced it to be so. The products of men’s minds and labor both tangible and intangible are being taken out of the hands of the producers by political intervention in every segment of our lives.
Political intervention is responsible for the moral degradation and misery we are rushing toward. Those people in government who feel they can improve on reality, who feel they can "plan" things and do better than the law of supply and demand are thoroughly evil and immoral because of the inevitable lowering of living standards their planning creates. It makes no difference whether they do this with conscious intent or are merely well meaning but naive. The end result is the same—misery, poverty, lack of respect for law and order, and bloodshed. I hold the politicians who advocate this intervention as well as those who would cooperate with them in the "planning," be they physicians or businessmen, personally responsible for the mess this country is in today.
Most physicians believe in free enterprise. They recognize that the affluence and high standard of living which Americans and others in the free world enjoy today is due to voluntary cooperation of thoughtful, rational men in a free market. The high standard of medical care we have today is due to the freedom under which we have practiced in the past, and most patients realize this, too. We are traders in a free market. We trade services for money which represents the productivity of our patients in their respective fields. Because our services are so important, we occupy a position of relatively greater influence in our society. We are well educated and do our best for our patients because it is in our rational self-interest and the interest of our patients to do so. We are not infallible. We are men, not gods. We make errors and we do our best to learn from them. But today the malpractice suits against doctors are attempting to penalize physicians for not being infallible! The grotesqueness of this travesty of justice staggers the imagination of any rational man.
Many people feel today that capitalism is good for the rich people, for the "Wall Street financiers" or for the privileged and that capitalism is designed to keep the poor people in a position of subservience and poverty. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a lie which has been furthered and nurtured ad nauseam by every collective political system in history both current and past. I refer now to the Nazis, all forms of communism or socialism, and to the welfare statists and social planners in this country today. The truth is that capitalism is the only system which has ever given every citizen a chance to improve himself and puts a stop to coercive monopolies which tend to fix prices and wages thereby insuring that those in a lower economic position will never be able to improve their lot. Coercive monopolies, price and wage fixing, and poverty are results only of governmental interference. There is no other way it can be done except by legislation.
The free market operates in exactly the opposite way and is therefore the only moral choice for rational men to make today.
With the above in mind it is with intense regret that I see the medical profession publicly demonstrate its willingness to cooperate in governmental schemes which overtly claim to have interest in improving medical care. You doctors are in error who say that if the medical profession supports and collaborates with these governmental health programs, they will succeed in improving the quality of medical care. This is another way of saying that if the programs fail to live up to the great expectations of the politicians, it will be the physicians who are to blame. The programs were doomed to failure as efforts to benefit mankind just as every other socialistic plan has caused poverty, misery, and bloodshed in the past. Only naive men would accept such blame and guilt. We as physicians in our own self-interest and that of our patients should never accept such a position whether it is placed on us by the government or by another physician. We must place the guilt where it belongs —on the men who drew up the laws and on those who support governmental interference in the practice of medicine.