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Take a stand for the rights of physicians

By Richard E. Ralston
web posted March 5, 2007

While Governor Schwarzenegger and California legislators are busy putting forward proposals to socialize health care, one element is profoundly missing: none of these politicians know or care what physicians think of the proposals. It should have occurred to them that physicians are, to say the least, rather central to maintaining good health care. But physicians and their views are obviously considered to be unimportant -- an individual's need for healthcare entitles him to the knowledge, ability, careers and lives of physicians. Apparently, physicians are nothing more than a natural resource, like oil reserves -- and are to be allocated by the government.

This treatment of physicians is not only a huge economic mistake but an unjust and immoral basis for health care policy. It is precisely because health care is so important that we should be very careful indeed to protect the rights of physicians.

The moral principle of individual rights must be defended in the face of anyone who needs health care and proclaims that he has a right to force someone else to provide it -- to himself or others. Politicians who tell you that you have a right to health care usually mean that no one should have access to any health care -- unless they get it through the government.

Governor Schwarzenegger wants to place a two percent tax on the gross revenue (not profits) of all physicians in California. Did anyone consider what that would do to cancer specialists, for example, or other specialists who pass along to patients the expense of high-tech diagnostic testing? It could eliminate most of their net income -- or the use of expensive technology. But the heavy hand of government seldom notices such details.

Any further regimentation of medical care by California, the most populous state, is likely to be emulated elsewhere. All physicians in the United States should be concerned about the threat to the economic viability of their practices.

Physicians should urge their professional organizations to support them and their colleagues in actions to defend their individual rights. What should those actions be? At minimum:

  • Speak up. Insist that other professional organizations speak up.
  • Write letters to local newspapers.
  • Always take a principled, moral stand on your right to practice medicine as you see fit.

Moreover, physicians could provide information to their patients on reforms that would protect real rights -- of patients and doctors. A simple search on the Web for "California health care" will lead to think-tanks and other organizations that can provide educational material on the many things that the government could do -- or stop doing -- that would actually make health insurance more affordable. For example:

  • Abolish California's 49 mandated treatments required of all insurance policies,which drive up premiums.
  • Allow competitionfrom insurance companies in other states, which would drive down insurance costs.
  • Recognize that government-run health care in other countries has resulted in a lack of investment in the latest equipment and treatments, the rationing of health care, and long waiting lists for referrals to specialists and approvals for surgery and cancer treatments. Do patients know that in 2006 the Canadian Supreme Court struck down the law against private insurance in Quebec as unconstitutional, because they ruled that "access to a waiting list does not constitute access to health care?"

Far more important than these details is the ability to take a strong moral stand with clarity and confidence. Physicians: Are you proud of the years of study and dedication it took to become a physician? If so, are you willing to quietly obey a government decree to surrender your practice, your career, your patients and your lives to the whims and micro-management of politicians? If not, then now is the time to take a stand. ESR

Richard E. Ralston is Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine in Newport Beach, California. © Copyright 2007 Americans for Free Choice in Medicine (AFCM) All rights reserved.


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