Says Who??

Verstehen, through shared perspectives

Has the War on Doctors been Lost?

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According To Margalit Gur-Alie (founder, BizMed), “There really is no war on doctors. There is a war on patients, and doctors are merely collateral damage [emphasis mine]. You [doctors] are an exploitable asset, to be bought and sold like cattle…” http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2014/06/really-war-doctors-theres-war-patients.html. In this ingeniously constructed article, Gur-Alie turns the entire idea of “social capital” –- heretofore a positive concept within which we value human dignity, and also show how the poor and oppressed of the world can become the authors of their own freedom-—on its head.

Assigning the term “social capital” to patients, doctors (formerly wealthy and powerful, by inference) as social capital are nullified at worst, and become mere agents of the “owners” of production –- in this sense, the insurance companies, and probably beyond them the international economic cartels that control them –- doctors whose sole purpose is to maximize the productivity of the “covered lives” assigned to them.

The article is interesting on several levels. One of the benefits of growing old is that you get to watch old theories die and be reborn in new calls to action on behalf of a new chosen population. In this neoMarxist work, we see the Bourgeoisie (both new “owners” and the old “owners” – doctors) on one side, and the Proletariat (workers, or patients in this case) on the side populated by the oppressed. The final section of the paper is a manifesto, calling the (workers of the world) patients to arm themselves with knowledge, and unite to save themselves.

I’m all for it! To a sociologist, this is conflict theory doing its job. My problem with the article is that the conflict perspective is only one of the many that are useful for understanding any complex social issue. Like any perspective used alone, it can narrow our understanding of the issue to the point of defeating its own cause by essentially disregarding facts that don’t fit in its worldview, even while stating them. In this article, for example, Gur-Alie claims that there is no war on doctors, then spends the first four paragraphs of the article exposing what has happened, and is continuing to happen, specifically in order to disempower the medical profession as a whole.

By implication, the author is saying that the war on doctors began when the first HMO opened its doors, and is proceeding as scheduled to the inescapable “new world order” in which doctors will be mere employees, judged only by their financial productivity (like piece-workers in a factory?). Here is where I have trouble understanding whether the author sees this as a bad thing, or merely a fait accompli.

At any rate, whether near its end or only begun, there is a war on doctors. And, as so clearly outlined by Gur-Alie, on patients as well. It is manifest in the current drug wars, and in the attempted coup being conducted by insurance companies to claim ownership of medical practice.

This war may become as life-threatening as any fought with the more conventional weapons of destruction.

Author: profemjay

I am a retired Professor of Sociology with interests in the Sociology of Medicine, Political Sociology, the Sociology of Development, Social Action and the Sociology of Religion.

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