Doctors Need Freedom

What’s up with The Denver Post? At least in the Sunday edition of the paper that appeared on Saturday — I haven’t yet seen the paper as printed for Sunday — the paper published another front page editorial. (It also published a front page editorial in favor of Referendum C.) I don’t mean an editorial masquerading as a news story; I mean an editorial labeled as such, on the front page. A disclaimer appeared at the bottom: “The Denver Post’s editorial board operates independently of the paper’s news coverage.” But who approved a front-page editorial? Wasn’t it the same guy who manages the “paper’s news coverage?” So the front page editorial is odd, but, hey, it’s The Denver Post.

After calling Governor Bill Ritter “Jimmy Hoffa” for giving unions of state employees more power, the Post laments that Ritter’s move might alienate “business”. (Not particular businesses, just “business.”) The Post fears:

Without business in his corner, we fear Ritter won’t be able to effectively shepherd a comprehensive health care solution through the statehouse. And any plans he may have for a new revenue stream for higher education are dangling by a thread, too.

Perhaps more importantly, we’re concerned he’s lost whatever business support he had to reform Colorado’s budget process. … Ritter will be rudderless if he tries to convince voters to approve an extension of Referendum C.

So the Post (or at least its independently operated editorial board) is worried that, if Ritter favors unions too much, he won’t be able to spend more tax dollars and impose new government controls on medicine. Wow. That’s definitely worthy of the front page of The Denver Post. (I do agree that Ritter’s favoritism toward unions was bad.)

For now, though, I want only to reflect on the Post’s call for “a comprehensive health care solution.” What does that mean? It means that state legislators would spend more of other people’s money in order to expand the political control of medicine. Leading plans call for an expansion of health welfare and for health-insurance mandates. Who will decide how these welfare dollars are spent? Who will decide what the mandated insurance must cover? Some combination of politicians and bureaucrats, no doubt with plenty of input from special interests.

“A comprehensive health care solution” would further erode the ability of patients and doctors to associate voluntarily. It would further replace the judgment of doctors with the whims of politicians and bureaucrats. It would expand the political controls that have created current problems in American medicine.

A recent release from the Ayn Rand Institute makes clear the fundamental importance of restoring liberty in medicine. The release quotes a doctor from Atlas Shrugged:

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 would 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, only “to serve.” … I have often wondered at the smugness with 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 that they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands?