Physician Politicians?

February 12, 2010 in Health Care "Reform" by RangelMD

Physician, legislate thyself . .

Dr. Gray (the founder and president of Physicians For Reform, not Dr. Grey, the wifely title character on Grey’s Anatomy)  believes that the best medicine for the chronic political condition that is the United States Congress is to elect more physicians to the House and Senate.

The Hippocratic physician was born to serve his fellow man . . But such servant leaders are in short supply in Washington today. An air of entitled aristocracy permeates our political class. Rather than guarding hard-earned taxpayer dollars with sacred trust, politicians spend with reckless abandon. Rather than leaving Washington to live under the laws they pass, most politicians cling to power for as long as possible.

Washington has become a city where pork and payoffs rule the day. Where backroom deals and buried earmarks are accepted as they way things get done. Where health care reform becomes about politics, power, and payoffs, not patient care. Americans chafe against this sad perversion of power. To reclaim our representative government, We the People must find new leadership.

Wait. Does Gray really believe that physicians are so innately incorruptible as to be trusted with the reins of political power? Or is it that physicians are largely politically naive when it comes to the backroom, principle compromising, deal making that must occur in order to get anything done in Washington these days?  I believe it to be the latter. But just because the dreaded digital rectal exam is inherently apolitical does not mean that the performer of said rectal examination is somehow above political squabbling and opportunism.

Physicians also tend to be largely opinionated and independent minded, thus the ‘ol saying that it’s easier to herd cats than it is to get physicians to work together. Political naivete and a strong willed independent mindset is not necessarily the best combination of traits when it comes to politics.

Maybe what Dr. Gray really means is that we need to see the end of the professional career politician in Washington and the altruistic, politically naive physician seemed like the obvious perfect prototype for the rise of the citizen politician. Too bad this is all hogwash. Idealists and Mr. Smith wannabes have been pondering the wonders of a hypothetical utopia citizen politicians Congress forever but  reality keeps crapping all over this dream.

Could we use more physicians and fewer lawyers in Congress? Of course. Name a single circumstance where we couldn’t use more physicians and fewer lawyers! But maybe what we need is not just more citizen politicians and fewer lawyers but fewer people like former Representative John Murtha – who died this week. He was known infamously for bringing $100 million a year in pork spending to his congressional district in Pennsylvania and he was in office for 35 years. Yea, the numbers boggle the mind.

It’s also time to re-visit proposals for constitutional amendments to balance the budget and limit Congressional terms because while idealism is fine, laws are definitive.

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