Much of the time, the two political parties seem virtually indistinguishable. But, every once in a while, something happens that draws a stark contrast between the Democratic and Republican views of the world. Such a moment came during the GOP presidential debate last night, when Rep. Ron Paul was asked about how to deal with an uninsured 30-year-old man who needed medical care and without it he would die. Rep. Paul answered that the young man needed to take responsibility for his decision not to purchase insurance. When Wolf Blitzer asked, in a follow-up question, whether he was saying that society should just “let him die,” a portion of the audience members whooped, hollered, and yelled “yeah.”
It is truly a sad time when any American would believe that the sacrifice of a man’s life is a just “punishment” for his failure or his financial inability to purchase insurance. This cold attitude should remind those who are Republican or Tea Party members or any other American, who identify as Christian and believe in the “right to life”: that “there but for the grace of God, go I.” Any politician should be appalled, regardless of party affiliation, with supporters endorsing the belief that uninsured people with catastrophic illnesses should be left to die. These are people who could only be called “compassionless conservatives.”
Rep. Paul, a doctor himself and quite familiar with the Hippocratic Oath neither jumped on the “let him die” bandwagon nor voiced any discouragement of it. But, in the course of his answer, he did make another statement that illustrates a fundamental difference between the political parties.
Rep. Paul said that one of the major problems with medicine is that there is no competition, because “everyone is protected by licensing.” Having watched legislative sessions in Tallahassee this summer, I know that an anti-licensing movement has taken hold in the GOP. Dozens of licensing requirements were eliminated this year by the Florida legislature, including ones enacted when Jeb Bush was Governor. Some of these requirements were targeted to very specific societal evils, such as the problems with child exploitation and sexual abuse that had led to a (now-repealed) licensing requirement for talent agents. When it comes to alternative medicine, there may be room for improvement in licensing practitioners and approving new procedures.
Apparently, in Ron Paul’s world, any one of us should be able to open up a medical office, with no licensing authority to determine whether we possess the moral character or basic technical skill necessary to practice medicine. I do not want to live in this world. If you do, feel free to call me to schedule your next surgery.