In a recent editorial the Medical Brief spoke of the drift toward State medicine, and showed the dangers of the same. The State has no more right to interfere in medicine than in religion, yet if we do not look out we shall have State medicine, nevertheless. A bill has been introduced into congress recently to incorporate the American Medical Association, giving it the power to make laws, rules and regulations.
Section two gives as a reason for corporate existence the intention to promote science. Section three asks for all the usual powers and rights of a business corporation.
Now, stop and think what this means. Most of us are familiar with the history of the great commercial corporations the trusts. Their use of the great machinery under their control to oppress and wipe out individual business, the heavy tax laid upon consumers through the possession of monopolistic power, does not make the thought of a great medical trust particularly alluring, does it?
Suppose the Methodists, Baptists, or other sect, should incorporate to promote religion. That would mean Methodism or the doctrine of the Baptists, would it not? And what would be likely to happen when the doctor or the people disagreed with the “promoters” as to what constituted science?
The power which the church once exercised would be as nothing beside that which such an organization would wield over the medical profession and the people. Every act of the doctor would be subject to the approval of the trust. He would be a minor subordinate working under orders, allowed no discretion, likely to be called up and disciplined for expressing a dissenting opinion or adopting an independent course of action.
It is best to have a clear understanding of what the situation will be before we become so tied up that we are helpless. Do you not think we have about enough medical law now? If, for family or other reasons, you want to move from one State to another you, who have been practicing medicine successfully for years, have to submit to an examination, and pay a fee before you can earn a dollar just like the tyro fresh from college.
We are not opposed to the American Medical Association, per se, nor to any body of men who voluntarily associate themselves for purely scientific or social purposes, but all history and all knowledge of human nature show the danger of placing great power in the hands of any set of men. Men are men, not angels, and the possession of great power dehumanizes. There are not a hundred men in the world, however great and good, that it would be right or safe for the doctor to place his liberty and welfare in their hands.
The history of machinism, whether in politics, religion or medicine, is and always will be one of tyranny and mediocrity. Inefficiency and abuse of power are inseparable from a system which develops bosses at the top and puppets at the bottom.
Do we want a few Czars controlling a powerful machine in which we are only the pegs? Is it not astounding that any set of men should have the temerity to ask to be made the masters of the medical profession?
Do not entertain any illusions on this point. The history of organization in medicine will be the history of organization elsewhere. The stoppage of progress, the encouraging of authority, the emasculation of the doctor, the inevitable dissatisfaction and unhappiness in the cramping of development, to say nothing of the practical restrictions and handicaps placed on the physician, are results certain to follow as they have always followed the rule of the machine.
Do you like to be dictated to? Do you enjoy acting or thinking according to someone else’s ideas instead of your own? Do you want to be told what you must prescribe, what you should read, how you should think on various question? Medical organization is much like a Punch and Judy show, and if you do not like being a puppet you are better off outside of one.
Did you ever stop to think how the working of this autocratic spirit in medicine has horn the doctor of his rights? We are accumulating vast stores of mental rubbish, and elaborating a drawn-out system of imparting the same. Then we tie each other up with legal red-tape, and try to make an organization to do the thinking for the profession.
Thinking and study is the only way to get an education, and it requires the atmosphere of liberty. The facts which serve as a basis for thought a man will get somehow. Doctors will go on investigation and drawing conclusions until the end of time because Nature is stronger than machines, but if they will use a little common-sense and foresight they will save themselves and the people a great deal of harmful experience by setting themselves determinedly against the evils of machine medicine.