Doctors are in the cross-hairs of the nation’s politics more than ever. We’re all being asked to achieve more with less. We must cope with nightmare scenarios precipitated by cracks in the social and healthcare infrastructure so often these days that medical schools insist students become effective patient advocates as well as healers. Practicing good medicine necessitates navigating a minefield of competing interests. Doctors are increasingly tempted to just walk out, to lay down the pen, or to use their power in ways that subvert the system. As I wrote earlier this year, a group of Wisconsin doctors, all dedicated patient advocates, carried out a plan they hatched in the latter category.
The American Medical Association publishes a montly journal of medical ethics called Virtual Mentor. Virtual Mentor‘s October issue explores how doctors should behave “after hours.” In light of the Wisconsin debacle, Virtual Mentor asked me to explore the question of what doctors should and shouldn’t do in the field of political protest. While we’re by no means clerics, physicians really have no off-hours when we’re engaged in public acts. It’s the nature of the job. That’s the idea I’ve attempted to elaborate in my piece, which is also posted below.