I am a physician, and a neophyte political activist. These are two separate titles that I keep wrapped up in two distinct packages. When I graduated from medical school, I took an oath to care for my patients called the “Hippocratic Oath”. One line from that oath proclaims, “I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone”. I searched high and low for different versions of this oath and was unable to find the version which one urologist in Florida uses. In his version, the aforementioned line is followed by, “ … unless that person voted for Obama.”
This urologist, who I will refer to as “Dr. No”, has posted a sign on his office door which reportedly reads, “If you voted for Obama ... seek urologic care elsewhere. Changes to your health care begin right now, not in four years.” Dr. No claims that he is not turning patients away. His rational is that, if people read the sign and decide to turn away, so be it. I don’t know about any of my peers, but I don’t remember taking an oath that encouraged me to discriminate against my patients, and offer care only to those who thought, looked, or voted like me. If that were the case, I don’t know of many physicians who would be treating medical malpractice attorneys. I wonder if Dr. No limits his exclusions to political biases, or if he has various other signs in his office that he posts when he is in the mood to discriminate against other groups of people. Would Dr. No feel put out if his favorite golf course hung out a signs stating, “If you went to medical school, you are not welcome here. Doctors that don’t follow through are par for the course.” Even though Dr. No’s local golf course owner may not like doctors holding up his course while answering pages, he would keep those sentiments separate from his business.
Discrimination against any human for religious or political views is exactly what the founders of this country were trying to preclude with the creation of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal …”. Over the years, our greatest leaders were able to expand on that sentiment by inserting race and sex into the scope of non-discrimination. I am personally hoping for a day when sexual orientation is added to that list. In my opinion, Dr. No’s behavior was not only unethical; it was downright shameful. It reminds me of the anti-gay protestors who picketed the funeral of a fallen marine, claiming that military deaths are God’s punishment for homosexuality. There is a time and place for everything. Political protests have no place in the doctor’s office or at a funeral. Basic human decency should make this apparent, but where has this decency gone? We have seen the worst of human nature emerge as we have been bombarded by media coverage of political rallies that promote fear and hate mongering.
It doesn’t take very much, or very long, to push people from disappointment, to peaceful protests, to despicable behavior. A reporter for the Columbus Dispatch, Catherine Candisky, wrote about this phenomenon. She told the story of Chris Reichert, a respectable registered Republican who turned vile during a Tea Party protest. From the sound of Chris’s story, it started as “something to do” on that particular Sunday. Chris claims that he is not politically active, and that this was his first political rally. Yet, when surrounded by people chanting a mantra of hateful talking points, the psychological effects were apparent. In a matter of hours, Chris went from, “not politically active”, to “a passionate activist”, to “ a discriminatory person” who ridiculed and threw money at a Parkinson’s patient. After he went home, and the heat of the moment was gone, Chris appeared to regret his actions. He later admitted that he “snapped”, and seemed bewildered as to how it all happened in the first place. Chris may have been able to see his actions for what they really were, but others may not. Perhaps Chris already had a paying job, and a sense of respect from his peers and family. When that respect was tarnished by his actions at the rally, he became remorseful. He is now trying to earn back that respect by donating to the Parkinson’s foundation.
It is important to be involved in your government. It is important to take an interest, and to take a stand on issues that affect your daily life. However, it is also important to understand and respect the fact that your friend, your neighbor, your family member, or your patient may not hold those same views. You should still respect them as a human being and an American who loves this country as much as you do. Here’s my advice for Dr. No: start a blog, and keep the politics out of the office.