The Wisdom to Do No Harm

Over a year ago, my wife and I found ourselves caught up in a medical crisis.  An important decision had to be made and time was running out.  This decision, as most, involved multiple options and tradeoffs for which all the facts were not readily apparent.  One thing was clear, we were facing an internal hemorrhage -- doing nothing was not an option.  In order to buy more time, a transfusion was necessary.  So as the foreign blood entered my wife's veins, our doctor weighed the options.  He narrowed the solution down to two alternatives -- perform a well known but highly invasive operation (remove an organ) or attempt an experimental but less-invasive procedure to cease the hemorrhage from within. 

As presented, the well-known operation came with the lure of a fix-it-all cure.  On the surface, it seemed to be the way to go. Then something seemingly simple happened that I will never forget. As the doctor began to hash out for us the details of the treatment, he paused and said these words: "first do no harm".  I am unsure if, at that moment, the doctor was speaking to us or out loud to himself.  The important thing is that the wisdom of those words caused us to pause.  We were reminded that the well-known operation, even with numerous beneficial promises, carried the risk of significant side effects over the long term.  As a result, the right decision was made.  The experimental procedure was performed, and it worked.  With time, the less-invasive procedure allowed my wife's body to heal itself naturally.

It is difficult to ignore the parallels between my family's personal crisis and the current national health care crisis. To me, it seems a perfect microcosm.  In our crisis, the wisdom and skills of the doctor made all the difference.  I thank God, that our doctor was able to recall the teachings of Hippocrates, more specifically the Hippocratic writing Epidemics at just the right moment.

Take some time to think about our doctor's wisdom.  A wisdom acquired through a lifetime of dedicated medical study and training coupled with constant professional practice.  At the time of our decision, there were three people in the room -- a lawyer (the patient), an engineer (this writer) and a doctor.  All three of us are highly educated, qualified, experienced and accomplished in our own respective fields.  Individually, we are each capable of looking at facts, weighing consequences and making good logical decisions.  However, in this case, we were tasked with a medical decision. The lawyer and the engineer could not be expected to carry the knowledge of the doctor.  Our roles were clearly known.  There was no question, the doctor would make the final decision and the doctor would wield the scalpel.  After all, we were dealing with a health care crisis.

Now, when I hear our political leaders attempt to "sell" national or universal health care reform it is clear they lack the wisdom of a doctor in the room. However, it's even worse than that.  With respect to our health care systems, these particular leaders do not appear to fully understand their roles. With blind arrogance, most seem perfectly willing to do the doctor's work.  They seem unafraid to pick up the scalpel and cut away.  Right now, these leaders are working feverishly.  Not always mindful of the patient's (the Nation's) real needs, with tunnel vision, they press on in an attempt to swiftly achieve long-desired political and economic goals.  There appears to be a desperate want for the quick fix-it-all without proper weight applied to the long term risks.  As a result, our Nation's focus is dispersed and our power misdirected.  Our legislators are not working on the right problem and are not even close to addressing the root cause of the health care crisis.  In future articles, I plan to properly identify and address the root cause issues.

Under normal circumstances, health care is not a governmental responsibility.  It is the responsibility of each patient and each doctor to effectively manage each specific situation to the best of their abilities.  Last week I was sick with the flu.  I spent two days in bed recovering.  Not once did I expect the government to send a nurse with chicken soup, painkillers and flu remedy. 

I acknowledge, this may be over simplification.  However, on June 16th 2009, American Thinker published an article by C. Edmund Wright entitled "Health Care Is Not That Complicated".  In the article, Mr. Wright explains-

The confusion between "health care" and "health insurance" as public policy issues -- along with the near universal misunderstanding of what health insurance is (or should be) -- is making what should be a rather simple financial planning market solution a national nightmare... The solution is to get back to the original intent of heath insurance and an understanding of what it is. And more importantly, what it is not.

Unfortunately, many of our governmental leaders do not share this position of understanding.  These leaders have decided, and in many cases, insist on taking up the responsibility of health care for each and every one of us.  The level of responsibility that comes with national or universal health care is far too great for any group of individuals to manage as a top-down enterprise. When a small group promises to take care of everything and everyone they are destined to disappoint.

J. N. Kish is an industrial engineer, part-time author, and full-time thinker.