“Gifted Hands” Kindly Rebuffs President Obama
Ever since the pep rally that was the white coat ceremony in the backyard of the White House, I’ve been waiting to see what the doctors who I hold in highest regard have to say on the issue of health reform.
Then this came to my attention. It is the strong, yet characteristically kind, words of Dr. Ben Carson. And, he appears to be more in the mainstream of physicians than not:
[W]ith credibility and acclaim the world over for the pioneering surgeries he has and his personal story of overcoming hardship, recently ripped the dominant health care legislation before Congress in a critique similar to that of conservatives and libertarians. Benjamin Carson, director of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, Md., and recipient of numerous awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, criticized in a recent interview the approach of the current bills for their mandate, creation of a “public option,” and lack of malpractice liability reform.
“My biggest problem is I feel it’s going in the wrong direction,” Carson told reporters at TV station WLOS in Asheville, N.C. (Video here.)“It’s giving us more government and less autonomy. And I think we should be going in exactly the opposite direction. We should be having more autonomy and less government. And that is the kind of thing that brings the prices down.”
Considered one of the best neurosurgeons in the world, Carson gained acclaim in the ’80s and ‘90s for his pioneering operations separating conjoined twins joined at the head and other procedures that have saved children from epilepsy and brain cancer. But Carson is also celebrated for his personal story of overcoming poverty and prejudice. An African-American, Carson grew up in a single-parent home Detroit ghetto, but his mother pushed him and his brother to achieve excellence. He is the author of the popular autobiography “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story,” which was made into a TV movie this year with Cuba Gooding Jr. portraying Carson. And he does much philanthropic work through charities such as his “Carson Scholars” fund.
I included that last paragraph because I wanted to give kudos to Cuba Gooding’s potrayal of Dr. Carson – you really ought to watch it sometime. Dr. Carson’s story is among the most inspiring in our nation’s history.
But I digress, or do I? You see, what Dr. Carson is reacting to is the force medical paternalism that squelches the freedom to succeed, to exceed, and to advance medical breakthroughs and life-saving, life-affirming techniques for which he is renown. Imagine the conjoined twins he separated receiving the “gifted hands” of Dr. Ben Carson under health reform. Weighing the costs and benefits, wouldn’t it be more likely that these unique creations would have had their resources allocated elsewhere?
What is more encouraging from Dr. Carson is his rational approach. His is not an empty complaint, he offers a solution:
As his main “fix”, Carson proposes a system of patient empowerment in which “individuals and families can own their own insurance; it doesn’t have to be through their employer.” Not all of Carson’s ideas expressed in the interview were free-market, though. He did propose that the government set insurance rates, and cover patients’ catastrophic costs above $250,000
Above all, Carson was adamant that there transparency and deliberation, rather than a rush to force through a health care bill that no one had read. In fact, he proposed bringing health care to a national vote of the American people “I would say we should have a national referendum on it. People should be able to vote. That would really work, because now, people would have to explain it. They would have to know what was in it. When we do these big sweeping national things and just sort of jam them through and nobody even knows what’s in it, that’s not democracy. At some point, someone has lost their ideal of what democracy is.”
Interesting. Asking the people of, “We the people” what they think? How novel!
But he doesn’t end there. One of Carson’s chief concerns is the lack of medical malpractice protection that is present in the current iteration of health care reform:
“We have to bring a rational approach to medical litigation,” he said. “We’re the only nation in the world that really has this problem. Why is it that everybody else has been able to solve this problem but us? Simple. Special interest groups like the trial lawyers’ association. They don’t want a solution.”
So what do you think? Are we to believe a photo-op, politicians known more for working to their own political advantage than advancing brilliant ideas with real solutions, or a doctor who has pioneered life-saving medical procedures through his entire career within the current system – whether or not that system is broken.
As a final thought, Dr. Carson practices at Johns Hopkins. I could be wrong, but my guess is that the parents of those conjoined twins probably could not afford the small army of surgeons, doctors, and nurses that saved the lives of their daughters. How does President Obama’s plan account for that generosity when painting the medical and insurance communities with the wide brush of corporate greed?