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Doctors and Individual Rights

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Doctors all over the United States are wondering what they are going to do as the State encroaches more and more on their freedom to practice their profession unhindered by regulations and laws that prevent them from doing their jobs in a professional manner. As ObamaCare and other socialized health regulations increase, the doctor will find that he can no longer do his profession in an adequate manner, because he will have to focus more and more on satisfying a government regulator not familiar with medication and healing the sick. He will have to follow rules and regulations or hire a staff to do this, and all the while his patients – his customers – will receive less and less actual medical care. So, what is one supposed to do about this? I think it is important that the doctor comes to understand his individual rights and to stand up for them as he practices his profession.

The concept of Individual rights means the right to be free of one’s fellow man so long as one is not injuring another through physical force. It means that a doctor has the inalienable right to practice his chosen profession in the manner he sees fit, without being considered guilty until proven innocent by some bureaucrat who doesn’t know the difference between a tonsil and a butter knife, or the difference between a virus infection and a bacterial infection. Just as in any other profession, the professional knows his job and can do it well without directions from Washington DC or any other State agency. And doctors need to understand that they have a right to practice their profession without interference, so long as they are not violating the rights of anyone else. And they need to understand that this is their *moral* right, that just as every other individual is free to practice his profession by his own intelligence and his own judgment, so too does the doctor have this right. It is moral for a doctor to deal directly with his patients to determine what is wrong with him and how to correct the problem; that just as an automobile mechanic doesn’t need a bureaucrat telling him how to supposedly fix an engine, so the doctor does not need a bureaucrat getting between him and his diagnosis.

The doctor has to come to understand that this is his *moral right* and that anyone who interferes with that scientific discovery of what ails his patients is immoral and even evil insofar as he stands in the way of a scientific diagnosis. And he needs to speak out about his moral right to practice his profession. He needs to say that he knows more than Washington DC and any other State bureaucrat when it comes to diagnosing his patients and that he will not stand for the State interfering with his profession. Such interference is immoral and evil, since it can mean the difference between life and death and health and illness. It is certain possible for others to make this type of statement, as I am, but I am not a doctor and I will not be the one enslaved by the State if we get socialized medicine in this country. My health may well suffer as I get decreased medical attention, but I won’t be directly enslaved. The doctor will be treated as a slave of the State, and he needs to rebel against this by telling the State to back off!

For more information, I recommend “Man’s Rights” by Ayn Rand and apply it to your life as a professional.

Man's Rights by Ayn Rand

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I would just like to add to this thread that the organization FIRM (Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine) was formed to focus on precisely this issue. Their website can be found here. From the website, it appears that the organization is very prolific in getting editorials published on subjects concerning individual rights in medicine, and they also appear to maintain an active blog. They have a section entitled "Take Action" with various suggestions on getting involved with this issue. I am not personally familiar with this organization, but from what I can tell I am very glad that it exists.

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I'd have more sympathy for the medical profession if they didn't do MOST OF this to themselves by their past reckless politics.

Further, the medical profession today in America is woefully lost on most issues of human health, has lost the thread of integrity in viewing an individual, and generally sees me as an aggregate of statistical averages, with concomitant "treatment".

The mind-body dichotomy in particular is rampant, with doctors papering over mental symptoms with sleep aids so that the body can continue to function, and/or papering over physical symptoms with pain killers so that the mind can continue to function. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is what my mother called it.

Until medical science resets its premises back to thinking of individuals as whole beings with unique physiques and corresponding need for specialized solutions, it will remain in the backwater with the witch doctors, prescribing what is at hand by rote and meeting questions with fear-mongering.

Personally, I've had it with traditional medicine. I only use it to get my test results periodically, and I interpret them for myself (including the trends over time, e.g., in blood chemistry). The only thing I find that works is holistic practices where the mind and body are considered to be two aspects of the same unit -- and even then, most "holistic" practitioners are even worse quacks than the pill pushers, and it is even harder to find a good one. It took me 10 years to find someone who could help me fix my neck, but now that I have found him, my range of motion is coming back!

I recommend hardcore accupressure as a regular tonic ... if and only if you can find a good practitioner at a reasonable price in your area. Otherwise, try calisthenics, yoga, tai-chi or somesuch. Diligence in these practices can really help, as anyone who does them diligently will attest. But they aren't for everyone -- my philosophy is that if 10 people go to the doctor for the same symptoms, and they are not obviously related (e.g. by a common pathogen), then each of them should probably get different treatment, at least in degree -- if not a wholly different diagnosis!

As an example, how do doctors treat chronic back pain, perhaps the single most common complaint among adults? Anyone ever have their chronic back pain fixed permanently by pain killers or muscle relaxants? Anyone get a fix without surgery? No one I know. Why not?!

- ico

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Whether a given doctor or a class of doctors can or will cure your ills is not the issue here; the issue is one of the government having no business deciding what doctors can and cannot do, outside of physical force or fraud. I think doctors tend to take the easy way out and the conventional cure / pseudo-cures because if they don't play it safe, government *will* come after them. In a profession that is increasingly being considered guilty until proven innocent, what else can they do? But this is a primary reason why doctors need to have their individual rights respected. More freedom means better treatments. And the individual or the public should not consider the doctor to be out to get rich at their expense. If you don't want to pay, don't take the treatment. And doctors are not omniscient, either, though some people have the attitude that a doctor should be able to cure anything, whether it is possible or not; and then wants to sue him in court if he can't be cured. So, a lot of things need to be changed, but having doctor's individual rights respected is a good place to start to leave them free to cure people that can be cured.

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While I certainly agree that doctors just as all individuals have rights that should be respected and protected, as George Reisman says in his article, "The Real Right to Medical Care Versus Socialized Medicine," doctors have "first sent around to others precisely what has more recently been coming around to them, namely, the violation of individual rights in the field of medicine."

It's a rather long but very good article. Quoting the relevant portion (to this point):

"The essential nature of medical licensing is forcibly to exclude from the market a more or less sizable number of individuals and organizations who otherwise would be willing providers of medical care. Such legislation violates the right to medical care by depriving the buyers of medical care of the services of these willing providers. It is both a violation of the freedom of competition of those providers and, by the same token, the bestowal of a monopoly privilege on those to whom the government grants licenses. It deprives the buyers of medical care of the benefit of the additional supply of medical care that would be provided by the excluded competitors and forces them to deal only with the government-protected medical monopolists. The inescapable effect of such legislation is to make medical care scarcer and more expensive. The principal victims of such legislation are necessarily those who can least afford any rise in prices, namely, the poor. (I will deal with the essential rationalization offered in favor of medical licensing later.)

Ironically, the main driving force behind medical licensing has always come from within the medical profession itself, many of whose members have sought the monopoly privileges that licensing bestows and thereby the artificial rise in their own incomes that it makes possible. There is nothing that should be surprising in this. It simply means that physicians have often acted in the same mean spirit as carpenters or plumbers who form coercive labor unions, farmers who seek government subsidies, or businessmen who seek protective tariffs. It is an expression of the mentality that underlies most government intervention into the economic system, namely, the mistaken belief that it is possible to serve one’s self-interest by means of the initiation of physical force against others, coupled with a willingness to serve it by such means. Such a policy is irrational and ultimately self-destructive. Indeed, its self-destructiveness is illustrated precisely by the plight of today’s physicians. For what is ironic in the fact that physicians have been the driving force behind medical licensing legislation is that, in effect, they first sent around to others precisely what has more recently been coming around to them, namely, the violation of individual rights in the field of medicine. The effects of medical licensing have played a major role in encouraging demands for socialized medicine and the threat to the rights of physicians that socialized medicine represents."

We either live by the principle of individual rights or we all suffer.

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Whether a given doctor or a class of doctors can or will cure your ills is not the issue here; the issue is one of the government having no business deciding what doctors can and cannot do, outside of physical force or fraud. I think doctors tend to take the easy way out and the conventional cure / pseudo-cures because if they don't play it safe, government *will* come after them. In a profession that is increasingly being considered guilty until proven innocent, what else can they do? But this is a primary reason why doctors need to have their individual rights respected. More freedom means better treatments. And the individual or the public should not consider the doctor to be out to get rich at their expense. If you don't want to pay, don't take the treatment. And doctors are not omniscient, either, though some people have the attitude that a doctor should be able to cure anything, whether it is possible or not; and then wants to sue him in court if he can't be cured. So, a lot of things need to be changed, but having doctor's individual rights respected is a good place to start to leave them free to cure people that can be cured.

I see all that, but I think it is too naive. First off, it is not like the treatments which I would choose for myself are covered by insurance. Even a doctor's prescription doesn't necessarily qualify my choices as coverable in this day and age. And that is the doing of a good number of the doctors, who want to control the field and prevent valid competition. Now, I don't think my chosen treatments SHOULD be subsidized, but neither should the traditional treatments.

I am a bit biased because I taught organic chemistry at Harvard in the mid-80's when I was a doctoral student there, and you would not believe how cynical the pre-med students were about this subject. You'd think it would be an important one for pill pushers to be knowledgeable about, but no -- it was dang hard, and the pre-meds, to a person, constantly complained about how hard it was, and were only interested in getting a good grade in order to make it into med school. And they were arrogant about it to boot, as if were I to grade them as they deserved, on an absolute/objective scale (which would have meant failing up to HALF the class in some semesters!), then they would have their parents call up the school and get me disgraced. Sheesh: I actually had one young thug accuse me of racism because I failed him with good reason! Of course, his assertion was a bald-faced lie and nothing came of it, but it sure soured me on pre-med students. I doubt that med school straightened them out, but hope that some figure it out when they get into the real world. Most don't, I've come to find out.

You wanna see a doctor squirm? Try asking tough questions, logical questions, probing questions, pointed questions about your treatment, ask for the why's and wherefore's. See how far you get before you reach the tether of their knowledge and they start pulling rank, smiling patronizingly, and generally getting irritated at you for "wasting their time". Sheesh! We're talking about my health here, tough guy -- can I get a straight answer?

So maybe I'm soured. But that's my experience.

- ico

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I agree that State licensing should not be going on, that the State has no right to interfere in the operations of a profession unless force or fraud is involved. And I certainly suspect that one reason doctors are not speaking out morally for their right to practice medicine is that their license could be revoked if they tick off the wrong bureaucrat. Some might say they brought this onto themselves, that insofar as they accept the idea that one ought to have a State license to practice medicine, then that same State can dictate how one is to run one's practice to keep the license. Doctors should not be promoting the idea that one needs a State license in order to practice medicine. Indeed, I don't even think prescriptions ought to be necessary. Once one knows what medicine works, then one ought to be able to run to the local drug store and pick up some more instead of having to pay a doctor for a prescription. I think it would be a good idea to keep in touch with a doctor for such medications, but it should not be required by the State. So, yes, there are a lot of violations of individual rights going on, and maybe some doctors don't really know what they are doing to the satisfaction of some patients, but we have to start somewhere. We can't just say doctors ought to be enslaved just because they have to have a license to practice medicine and they accept and promote this aggression, since practicing medicine without a license brings a hefty fine or imprisonment. Do we just let everyone be enslaved because they favor licensing or State enforced unions? We have to start somewhere. I do think that insofar as a doctor speaks out for his own individual rights, then he ought not to be promoting State licensing. You can't have it both ways -- you can't endorse the initiation of force and then say but don't force me. But socialized medicine will be bad for everyone, and medical practices will diminish as the State grabs wider and wider powers over the doctors and the profession. That is something we should not permit to happen, even if one is not satisfied with certain particular doctors, and even if one thinks that the medical profession started it. Enslaving everyone is not the answer to justice in this situation.

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Agree wholemindedly, Thomas. I did not mean to suggest any sanction for abrogation of rights, or maintenance of the status quo which does so abrogate the rights of doctors and patients ... and now, even healthy people who are going to be taxed to pay for the sick ones.

What makes me irate is that I am being taxed to subsidize practices that have been shown to be wrong for many patients, yet the pill pushers just keep on pushing. Cholesterol lowering drugs for people with total cholesterol below 200 is criminal, IMHO. Blood pressure meds for people below 140 is just not right! It's too risky! You'd be better off smoking pot.

- ico

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Dr. Reisman's article is really quite good in explaining the current situation as well as offering solutions.

Again, it's "The Real Right to Medical Care Versus Socialized Medicine"

Here's the index:

I. The Medical Crisis and the Need for Radical Procapitalist Reform

II. The Right to Medical Care and the Causes of the Medical Crisis

The collectivization of medical costs has created or is responsible for:

1. The potential for a limitless rise in the price of medical services

2. The potential for a practically limitless increase in the quantity of medical care demanded

3. Irrational medical malpractice awards and the practice of defensive medicine

4. Perverting technological progress into a source of higher costs rather than lower costs

5. The very high prices of many patented prescription drugs

6. Hospitals wasting money in the purchase of unneeded costly equipment

7. Below market Medicaid rates and cost shifting

8. Bureaucratic interference with medicine and the rise in administrative costs

III. The Clinton Plan

IV. The Free-Market Solution

V. Toward a Free Market in Medical Care

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Thanks for the article.I didn't read the whole thing, since I am already familiar with how the government artificially runs up medical costs, but I did read his solutions. I'm for all-out abolishing government interference into the economy in one fell swoop,but he outlines a more gradual approach.Of course, either outright abolition of government interference or a gradual reduction of such laws would require principled politicians who are themselves capitalists.So, we are quite a ways away from that. In the mean time, I'm glad economists and capitalists,such as George Reisman, are writing articles about it on the internet.

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