Atlas Shrugged and Today's Healthcare Controversy
October 16, 2007
Irvine, CA--This month is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand's novel about a group of high achievers who rebel against a society that shackles and condemns them. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, heralded the book's relevance to today's cultural-political debate. "While Atlas is 50 years old, it contains many timeless truths that are just as relevant today as they were when it was first published.
"Take the realm of health care. Most Republicans and Democrats are proposing forms of socialized medicine--under euphemisms like 'universal health care,' 'national health insurance,' etc. Everyone talks about how to protect the patient's 'right' to health care--but no one talks about the rights of the doctors that create this value. This is a deadly evasion that one of the characters in Ayn Rand's novel, Dr. Thomas Hendricks, an eminent surgeon who quits the field, eloquently explains in describing his decision:
'Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I would not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun. I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, or the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward. I observed that in all the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything--except the desires of the doctors. Men considered only the "welfare" of the patients, with no thought for those who were to provide it. That a doctor should have any right, desire or choice in the matter, was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, only "to serve." . . . I have often wondered at the smugness with which people assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind--yet what is it that they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands?'
"Countless outstanding doctors have already fled the field because of the sort of government coercion Dr. Hendricks describes," said Dr. Brook. "Anyone who truly cares about the state of American medicine should learn from Ayn Rand's character: we must liberate the providers of medical services and protect their right to practice medicine on their own terms and as they judge best."
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