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Ayn Rand, Doctors, and a Good Book

by Reginald Firehammer

Students of Objectivism frequently note the number of things Ayn Rand predicted about society, culture, and the world which have actually happened just as she predicted. It is not what she wanted. She hoped her predictions would not come true, that her writing would serve as a warning that would stop the growth of the anti-intellectualism, altruism, and collectivism that is slowly eating away at western culture and civilization, creating the very horrors she predicted.

Then Doctors

In Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, in the chapter, "Is Atlas Shrugging?" Ayn Rand identified the second class of individuals, after businessmen, who would be the victims of the altruist-collectivist corruption of enlightenment civilization.

"Businessmen—who provide us with the means of livelihood, with jobs, with labor-saving devices, with modern comforts, with an ever-rising standard of living—are the men most immediately and urgently needed by society. They have been the first victims, the hated, smeared, denounced, exploited scapegoats of the mystic-altruist-collectivist axis. Doctors come next; it is precisely because their services are so crucially important and so desperately needed that the doctors are now the targets of the altruists' attack, on a worldwide scale." [Emphasis added.]

Most people, even most doctors, are not aware of the extent of oppression today's Doctors work under or the degree of deterioration our medical services have suffered. In most "advanced" countries of the world, medicine is, "socialized," which means medical "services" are payed for with state funds and, therefore, medical practices are regulated by the state. What this means is eloquently described in these paragraphs from the Leonard Peikoff piece from the June, 1962 The Objectivist Newsletter, special supplement, "Doctors And The Police State."

"In a free society, a man cannot force his terms on others; those who dissent are free to deal elsewhere. A patient who disapproves of a doctor's methods of treatment can seek out another doctor; a doctor who considers a patient's demands irrational is not compelled to give in to them. And, in the long run, it is the best and ablest doctors—those who achieve the cures and demonstrate their value—that rise to the top and set the example for the rest of the profession.

"But when the government sets the terms, they are enforced by the police power of the State. The standards of the government become the laws of the country, and no others are legally permitted. Should any doctor object to the decrees of the officials who staff the State Health Board—should he attempt to act on his own best judgment and make an unauthorized use of the drugs, the hospital beds, the operating rooms being paid for by the State—he becomes thereby a criminal, and he is legally subject to retribution: to loss of license, or fine, or jail-sentence. There is no one to whom he can turn: the government is his sole employer. He either submits—or he leaves medicine—or he escapes from the country.

The proposal to pay medical expenses with State funds has only one meaning: it is a proposal to enslave the doctors." [Emphasis added.]

Doctors and Freedom

In my article, Atlas Shrugged: A Model for Individualist Revolution I quoted briefly the reasons various ficticious "strikers" in Atlas Shrugged gave for quitting the system that was destroying them. One of them was Dr. Hendricks who quit for the same reason many of the best and brightest doctors today are quitting. This is the complete statement of Ayn Rand's Dr. Hendricks:

"I quit when medicine was placed under State control, some years ago," said Dr. Hendricks. "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.' That a man who's willing to work under compulsion is too dangerous a brute to entrust with a job in the stockyards—never occurred to those who proposed to help the sick by making life impossible for the healthy. 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?

"Their moral code has taught them to believe that it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims. Well, that is the virtue I have withdrawn. Let them discover the kind of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover, in their operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it—and still less safe, if he is the sort who doesn't."

When depicted in Ayn Rand's fiction, government control of medicine, the decline of medical services, and the loss of the best minds of ability from the field were already beginning.What was only fiction and only beginning when she wrote it, today has become a full blown horrible fact.

It Only Grows Worse

Most of us have had our own experiences with the deteriorating medical services in this country. Here are some current links to stories that show we are well on our way to the complete destruction of the greatest Medical system in the world.

Why Health Care Reform May Be Bad for Your Health (Richard A. Epstein)

Comparable Worth for Doctors: A Severe Case of Government Malpractice (Robert E. Moffit, Ph.D.)

"This system of price controls on physician care for the elderly will mean many doctors who feel the fees for their services are not adequate will refuse to accept Medicare patients. This will likely lead to less available care for many senior citizens. Worse, advocates of the new Medicare fee system want to impose it on the entire American health care delivery system. Just like any system of price controls, this will generate shortages in the quantity and quality of medicine for all Americans."

Health Care Reform: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Michael Tanner)

How Medical Boards Nationalized Health Care (Henry E. Jones)

When You Won’t Be Able to Find a Physician (Gary North)

A Medical Thriller

Ayn Rand warned us about what would happen in the field of medicine. It was her fiction that appealed to the wide audience that made her philosophy and astonishing predictions known. Readers and fans of Ayn Rand frequently complain that since Rand, there has been little or no quality fiction written with the values and insights they enjoyed in Rand's fiction.

Until now, that has been true, but there is a new writer that I can recommend, without reservation, to all those who ever enjoyed Rand, and anyone who enjoys reading well plotted, well written, fiction. That writer is Gen LaGreca.

Gen's first published novel, Noble Vision, is a medical thriller based on the very kind of government oppression of doctors which Ayn Rand predicted and now exists. Please read the description of her book and this excerpt.


—(05/04/05)