Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Farewell to the Good Doctor?

"The problem with our education system" my doctor friend opined, "is that we have turned our teachers into data gatherers. We don't pay them to teach; we pay them to gather data on their students. When the geniuses at the top of the bureaucracy don't like the data they see, they merely tweak the data or gather different data. It never occurs to them that their data collection is harming the educational process."

"We don't have students anymore; we just have data points. They're not people; they're just numbers to be manipulated" concluded the doctor.

My exercised friend was certainly on his soapbox. "That's where the medical industry is headed too," he said. "Everyone is being turned into a set a numbers. Numbers can be important, but they are no replacement for the individual."

The doctor explained that the availability of all kinds of health data to individuals and health care professionals can be very useful, if taken as part of a much bigger picture. But focusing too closely on the details can result in a great deal of harm.

"I am trying to treat individuals here, not diseases or symptoms," said my friend. "But the bureaucracy is making this increasingly difficult. I'm not sure how much longer I can put up with it," my friend said as he reflected ominously on his future. "And Obamacare will make it much worse," he added.

"We will all simply be a bunch of numbers for an endless army of number crunchers to crunch," said the good doctor. "We will be coerced into trying to make all of the numbers look good, regardless of how it affects the patient." He further opined that non-compliant patients and health care professionals will be punished.

Another health care professional glumly noted, "It's the law of the land."

I don't particularly care for that statement. It is certainly the policy of the government and its cronies. But there is a difference between law and mere policy. Natural laws exist irrespective of what arrogant humans say is law. It is up to us to discover these laws. We do not create them. We can obey them or not, but there will always be negative natural consequences for violation of natural laws.

For example, it is naturally wrong to deliberately kill another human that has not proven himself to present an unacceptable threat to the lives of others. Even if this law were not codified as public policy it would still be a natural law that carries its own set of consequences.

Policy, on the other hand, is subject to the whims of humans that wield sufficient power (or that think they do) to get others to obey their pronouncements. The demand that certain forms be submitted to the government is an example of policy. While disobedience to the policy can bring nasty consequences, it carries no more natural weight of law than the rules children establish for playing a game of hide-and-seek.

The most respected and broadly obeyed public policies are those that closely approximate current (admittedly imperfect) composite understanding of natural laws. While policy makers (I disagree with the term 'lawmakers') may codify these laws, they did not invent them; they merely codified their discovery.

So I disagree with the health care professional that suggested that our current national health care policy is law. It is policy and nothing more. Citizens have a moral duty to disobey those portions of the policy that are immoral. (I do not say that all portions are naturally immoral.) Such disobedience will certainly bring down the wrath of an ever expanding and increasingly thuggish almighty government unless so many disobey that the policy is rendered moot. It is a natural law that standing for the right can prove unpopular.

Some have opined that current health care policy is driving good doctors out of practice. My friend is a good doctor. The bureaucrats may eventually succeed in replacing him with someone that is more to the number crunchers' liking but that is not necessarily a good doctor.

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