When Government Plays Doctor

This week, concerns about swine flu have dominated the media and many government officials.  While the American people should be made aware of infectious diseases and common sense preventative measures, much of the hysterical reaction from government only serves to remind us how detrimental to your health it can be when government plays doctor.

As a physician, I have yet to see any evidence that justifies the current level of alarm.  Influenza typically kills around 36,000 people every year in this country and hospitalizes a couple hundred thousand.  So far there are only a handful of confirmed deaths attributable to this strain, and most of those sickened have or will fully recover.  Every death is tragic, but I see no reason to deal with this flu outbreak any differently than we typically deal with any other flu season.  Instead, government in its infinite wisdom is performing even more invasive screening at airports, closing down schools and sporting events, and causing general panic.

We had a similar outbreak in 1976, with only 1 death from the flu, but mandatory vaccinations killed at least 25 before the program was abandoned.

When government gets involved in healthcare decisions, the cure is so often worse than the illness.  And yet, this administration will likely consolidate the government’s power over your health with sweeping new reforms that are already being discussed in the Senate.

Government has not improved healthcare, and has not made it cheaper.  Quite the opposite; costs have skyrocketed, and quality has gone down in many ways.  Gone are the days of the country doctor making house calls, or of voluntarily giving away medical services at charity hospitals.  The bureaucratization of healthcare these past 45 years has made things worse.  It saddens me as a doctor that physicians are less and less accountable to patients, but more and more accountable to government red tape, insurance companies and attorneys.  It seems so perverse to me that important medical decisions that will directly affect the lives of all or nearly all Americans are being hashed out behind closed doors in Washington rather than between doctors and patients.

There is perhaps nothing more valuable to a human being than his or her health, which is why I’ve always considered the practice of medicine so crucial to our well-being.  Any intrusion by government into the privacy and trust between doctor and patient is detrimental to the art of medicine.  It distorts the whole dynamic of who the client really is when doctors must answer more to government or insurance companies than to their patients.  The best solutions to improving quality and lowering costs of healthcare would be measures that put decisions back into the hands of patients and doctors, where they rightfully belong.  I have introduced HR 1495 The Comprehensive Healthcare Reform Act, which promotes health savings accounts and tax deductibility of healthcare costs as an important step in this direction.

The unfortunate reality of this recent health crisis, as with any crisis, is that it presents opportunities that the unscrupulous will take advantage of, while the fearful become more compliant.

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4 thoughts on “When Government Plays Doctor

  1. I remember back in the day getting the swine flu shot…it was scary and it was when they were using the gun thing to give us the shot…I was ok and usualy Im allergic to most things…I know im allergic to horses…they use horse junk in things….but its better to be careful…and i do believe that tb is something we need to be scared abt ..my son went to kosovo and came back with tb and he had to take some shot that could either kill him or get rid of it…man…you never know….i worry abt him now…he walked into a room where students were sitting on the floor and the teacher was in the corner standing over a tiny table coughing up blood…everyone there was exposed to it….my other son went to cambodia as a missionary for 2 yrs and he was exposed to tb everyday ..he came back and is still ok today…there were dead bodies in the streets there….

  2. Pingback: When Government Plays Doctor « Dr. Gray’s Straight Talk

  3. Wow! Pretty profound… yet truthful… statements. I wonder if we can really understand and take to heart what he has said. Let’s break it down, huh?

    1. Although tragic, the swine flu situation is being blown out of proportion for ulterior motives
    2. That motive involves more government control over your health care decisions
    3. Increased government involvement has actually caused the rise in health care costs over the past 45 years
    4. Increased government involvement has also led to a decrease in the quality of care provided
    5. You and your interests are becoming less and less important with the expanding role of government

    When are we going to wake up? How far must government go before you learn that they do not have your best interest in mind?

    A couple years ago, there were outcries because The Patriot Act was seen as an invasion of privacy and freedoms. Yet, when the government proposes to take total control of your health care decision making ability… nothing. What was the most complained about provision of The Patriot Act? Wiretapping of oversees phone calls. Phone calls… oh the outrage! But now… they want control of YOUR PERSONAL ABILITY TO MAKE YOUR OWN HEALTH CARE DECISIONS… and nothing???

    Partisanship is not only detrimental to individual and collective good, it is also STUPID. Wake up people. Take a whiff of that crap they’re shoveling before you swallow it whole.

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