Medicine as a Business

I am more and more struck these days by the venality of medicine as practiced in the United States. Health insurance is far from universal. Those without it, if they can’t afford to pay, are left to manage on their own, without treatment. Some die.

We are the only modern nation which does not provide some form of medical care for its citizens. All European nations, the United Kingdom, and Canada do. What makes us different is our emphasis on “rugged individualism,” that is, favoring the individual as opposed to the group. We expect everyone to work hard to earn the benefits of a good life. We condemn indolence among the poor but fail to notice it among the rich. We express fear that a helping hand may encourage sloth.

Many, particularly among those with a comfortable income, condemn “socialized medicine” as a give-away to the undeserving. We label it as communistic and warn that it is a threat to democracy.

And because we are unwilling to enact controls, the price of medications in the U.S. dwarfs prices in other countries. In our willingness to reward innovation in medical research, we make its results unavailable to those who can’t afford the stiff prices.

I argue along with many philosophers that medicine should not be a profit-making business but a vocation. Health care is a right, not a privilege. We desperately need to rethink our priorities.

A comparison between the medical profession and the teaching profession has always struck me. We grossly underpay our teachers and richly reward our doctors and nurses. Isn’t it time that we, arguably the greatest nation on earth, reconsider how we do things?

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