Sufficient Scruples

Bioethics, healthcare policy, and related issues.

April 2, 2010

“Do No Good”

by @ 1:53 PM. Filed under Access to Healthcare, Global/Community Health, Healthcare Politics, Provider Roles, Theory

Dr. Jack Cassell, in Florida, is getting press today for the cranky, obnoxious note he posted on his office door:

Dr. Jerk

The text reads: 

If you voted for Obama . . .
seek Urologic care

Changes to your healthcare
begin right now
not in four years

He apparently also fills his waiting room with anti-Obama literature, signs about what “the morons in Washington have done to your healthcare” (NB: nothing has changed about any of his patients’ healthcare; he is the only one who has done anything so far), and explicit instructions on who they should vote for.

In response to concerns that he might be politicizing his care just a tad, he argues “I’m not turning anybody away — that would be unethical. But if they read the sign and turn the other way, so be it.” So of course he’s not actually doing anything to make patients feel uncomfortable by explicitly telling them to leave his practice because he disapproves of their politics; they just happen to choose to seek another doctor for reasons unrelated to his behavior or his treatment of them.

There’s been commentary over whether this infringes any laws or principles of medical ethics. His supporters claim he is justified in behaving this way because doctors, like everyone, have a right of free speech. There’s a lot to be said about that – most notably that the whole point to medical ethics is that professional practice and the professional relationship impose standards more stringent than those  incumbent on ordinary citizens. Simply having a right of free speech does not justify acting like a jerk toward your patients; the treatment relationship is one-sided, predicated upon the doctor’s commitment to service of the patients’ needs, not their approval of the patients’ politics; admission as a professional is predicated upon acceptance of those standards, and a willingness to put one’s personal inclinations aside in the professional arena.

But aside from that, what strikes me about this situation is the general attitude it reveals. Not only does this doctor fail in the face of any of the above standards, but it seems obvious he simply conceives of medical practice as something that does not in fact entail the authority of such standards or commitments. Doctoring is apparently a job, to him – something he can do if and as he chooses, and which does not impose on him any obligations he does not happen to want to meet. He is – to all appearances – essentially the doctor in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, who joins with the amoral capitalist runaways to form a free-market society founded on hard money and ethical egoism. Being a doctor does not require him to do anything for anyone if he doesn’t feel like it, and it doesn’t require him to accept as a patient – or even keep as a patient anyone he has already accepted – who does not personally agree with him on any matter of his choosing.

What I fear, but perceive, is that this attitude is becoming more widespread. Doctoring is just a job, it seems, in the minds of more and more doctors, and in the minds of the right-wingers who are so afraid that Obama is going to destroy healthcare by making it less capitalist. (As usual, facts are of no moment to the right-wing panic apparatus: it is this doctor himself who is “changing” healthcare for his patients – his own sign says so  – but he still manages to blame it on Obama. And it is this doctor who has made healthcare hostile and unwelcoming for his own patients – he is, not a death panel exactly, but a one-man jerk panel to his personal caseload – but they deserve it, he seems to think, because they voted wrong.) Whatever the consequences of Obamacare, I fear that it will be simply impossible to destroy medicine in the US because there will be no medical profession left to destroy – just a bunch of entitled, self-absorbed jobsworths whining about how much less they like their jobs now that the glamor and remuneration has started to fade and they’re left with nothing more than providing better care to more people, which is such an imposition.

Democratic Congressmember Alan Grayson, who represents that district, was notorious for (accurately) characterizing the Republicans’ healthcare policy as “Die quickly”. He notes about Dr. Cassell: “Maybe he thinks the Hippocratic Oath says, ‘Do no good.'” That’s about the size of it.

One Response to ““Do No Good””

  1. Anonymous Says:

    3/10 Significantly below your normal standard of writing and reasoning. I expect better next time.

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