Isn’t health a “public” concern?
The meaning of the word “public” is the main reason for confusion here. When “public” means “every individual” in any geographic area, then it is true – health is a public concern. However, when “public” means a group of people who work mainly through a voting system to decide policy for individuals in a particular area, then we have the aforementioned conflict between medicine and state. It is not easy to understand the need for this today, in the same way it was probably not easy to visualize a separation of Church and State at one point in our history.
It is normally argued that having our legislators decide what is the best “public health policy” is not so bad, since they have access to medical experts, via unelected health departments. There are two problems with this approach:
1. If the medical expertise is what gives the legislators their knowledge, why shouldn’t educative efforts made by the medical experts, directly to the public and independent of the government, be given the priority, instead of taking the detour via public policy?
2. Medical experts face no repercussions in such cases whereby they provide wrong advice or set the wrong policy, since their jobs are guaranteed and independent of their expertise. When a typical doctor makes errors in treatment, there exists the potential for a loss of patients and/or reputation to consider, which acts as a check against malpractice. There is no such check on any health department in the world.
In addition, since appointments for these governmental positions are typically made based on expertise in conventional allopathic modes of treatment, any other method of treatment becomes the “minority”, and is hence unable to influence policy. Since the experts are compromised in this way, activists for alternative modes of treatment generally have to spend enormous time and resources to educate legislators. All these disadvantages occur in addition to the fundamental disadvantage, that being: Any blanket health policy or mandate inevitably compromises a certain section of the population.
If health treatment is removed from the domain of legislation, then the medical system is made healthier, since it can act on the basis of its own expertise, without infringing upon the mutual freedom of the doctor and the patient. A health body, comprised of medical experts from various fields of medicine, then acts only in an advisory role, and not as a body that sets enforceable rules, free of consequences, onto a population.
What about infectious diseases?
Infectious diseases are different from, for example, auto-immune diseases or chronic lifestyle diseases, in that there exists the possibility of the diseased person infecting another person. At first glance, this form of disease seems to pass over from being a private individual issue to a ‘public’ human rights issue, as a relation between people. If mutual contact or transmission of an infectious agent becomes responsible for infection, surely the right to health of the other person is being violated?
While this is how things appear at first glance, a deeper look shows some crucial subtleties that should not be missed. There are three sides to the issue: the one who infects, the one who becomes infected, and the process of infection itself.
The one who infects: Unless it is shown that a conscious criminal intent to infect is present, either by knowing one is sick and deliberately trying to spread the disease, or by consciously releasing a known biological agent of some sort, the individual cannot be held responsible for a spreading of the infection, and thus it is not a rights issue.
The one who becomes infected: In almost all cases, self-interest dictates that an individual will not become infected voluntarily in order to transmit it. The one who becomes infected does not automatically violate the rights of another, and therefore no one can be punished by law for becoming infected.
The infection process: This is where medical realities come into play. When two people come into contact with one another, infection is not the only guaranteed outcome – it is also possible for the process to reverse, where one is healed by the other. It is not like a car crash, wherein the effect is immediate and harmful. There are two living immune systems working in tandem, and only an overall medical knowledge can gauge the results of this interaction.
Hence, except for the case of criminal intent (where one is innocent until proven guilty), the infectious disease does not convert health into a ‘public’ or government issue. Thus, even in the case of an infectious disease, no form of medical treatment or prevention method can be mandated by the government without violating human rights.
What about quacks?
The word “quack” can be interpreted in many ways. For the government, the doctor without a license is a “quack”. For the large industrial medical interests, any doctor who does not prescribe the industry’s recommended or preferred mode of treatment is a “quack”. However, this word is meant here only in the sense that a doctor is medically or ethically compromised, harming the patient through malpractice. Like any other field of human enterprise, we cannot assume that all doctors are angels, even if they are not compromised by entanglements in any drug or treatment industry or in law-making. For the doctor who is not ethically up to the mark, and who violates the doctor-patient relationship in any way, either through personal misbehavior, disclosing private information, or performing a harmful treatment, there must be a consequence. Similarly, the patient who is vindictive from his or her side, or who blames the doctor for a result that is not the doctor’s fault, also needs to face a consequence.
This is where a redress of grievance through an independent court system comprised of a board of professional peers and patient representation is justified, i.e. when a clear harm can be shown to occur, to either of the parties. Once again, the emphasis is on judging the results of the treatment and not the choice of treatment, per se.
In addition, this independent non-political board of doctors with relevant medical expertise, who do not have a stake in the matter, can remove the accreditation of the violating doctor for a specified period of time, and can thus communicate this fact to the general public. This would act as a check and balance against any incompetency of the doctor’s profession. For the patient, a violation would result in its going on the record for a certain finite time period, as well.
Hence, without the artifice of the license, there exist means of ensuring that the medical profession does not compromise on its quality of care and lead to “quackery”.
What about medical insurance?
Insurance as a system is pretty odd, in that it has a conflict of interest built directly into it by definition. The purpose of insurance is to pay out money in case of damages, but it is in the financial interest of the company to not pay out anything, and thus to make a profit. When these two oppositely directed intentions come together, the profit motive inevitably has to win in order for the company even to survive. This means that an insurance company must find ways of increasing income whenever it has to pay something out, which is why premiums rise when damages are claimed, i.e. requesting damages results in a penalty. It is also the reason why those who tend to be unhealthy are penalized by medical insurance in a different way, e.g. by refusing to cover those with preexisting conditions. This hurts precisely those for whom the insurance is supposed to provide a financial benefit. With such a conflict in-built, it is inevitable that any system of insurance ends up compromising on ethics in order to make a profit.
Why is this so? Traditionally, (widely present even today among farmers in the rural American Midwest, for example) when a member of the community suffered a misfortune, the community would gladly pitch in to help the person out. The community would perform a service or contribute funds, such that the misfortune could be dealt with. In essence, this served as a donation from the community, or a non-profit activity. When a for-profit company tries to pick up the role of what should actually be done through free donations as a non-profit activity, there arises a fundamental mismatch. When an insurance program is directed by the government (e.g. Medicare and Medicaid), it not only causes immense bureaucracy but also opens the door for mandates regarding personal health choices, since taxpayer money is involved (see the Broccoli Mandate). The way to solve the problem of high health costs is not through system “reform”, costly litigation, government insurance, or the regulation of the insurance industry, but rather, to avoid the system as a whole, instead seeking something that is fundamentally non-profit or donation-based. It is only then that the financial service can function the way it is supposed to without getting all tangled up. This is what the Health Independence Alliance seeks to do.
What about existing organizations? Aren’t there several alliances of doctors already?
There are indeed many excellent organizations of doctors who have come together to nourish the medical profession. These organizations may conduct research, hold conferences, offer educative programs, and serve as a significant voice on the international medical scene. The ways in which the Health Independence Alliance seeks to augment the effect of such organizations are to make certain principles very clear:
- All types of medical care are welcome, whether they be surgery, allopathy, homeopathy, herbalism, naturopathy, anthroposophic medicine, or any other medical approach based on spiritual insight. These various approaches to the healing arts are encouraged to research and cross-pollinate one another such that the overall quality continues to improve through self-education.
- The functioning of the organization would be strictly non-partisan. Political affiliation of any member or of any cause the organization supports would not be relevant to decision-making. This is not only because this is not a political organization, but also because medicine is too mobile and flexible to be straitjacketed into the confines of any political party whatsoever.
- There would be no lobbying or regulatory activity by this body. All contributions of the organization to society would be based on education only, and would be meant to guide rather than to “push”. The main focus is that of changing the culture of medicine, and the active practice of medicine without regard to governmental borders.
- The focus is not only on individual freedom, but also on freedom of the medical system as a whole. This extends the interest beyond specific patient choices (such as vaccines) and privacy concerns, into the separation of medicine from state and big finance.
- Funding will only be allowed from sources without conflict of interest. This means any industrial enterprise with a medical concern, whether it is based on natural supplements or pharmaceutical drugs, is barred from funding the organization.
To illustrate this distinction, here are a few examples:
Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières MSF) is an organization that operates across the globe in a similar spirit, but with the focus being predominantly “standard” pharmaceutical-based medicine, and no other methods. It has the unique policy of not accepting any donations from businesses, governments, or major institutions, which to a large extent shields it from such conflicts of interests. The Health Independence Alliance takes on that role more actively.
Physicians for Informed Consent (PIC) is an organization that focuses on the rights of patients regarding vaccination. It is part of a larger coalition, with organizations that also support patient privacy and health freedom activism. Hence, the priority is that of individual freedom.
Alliance for Natural Health focuses on alternatives to standard pharmaceutical-based medicine, through advocacy and lobbying. The organization has been instrumental in passing a law that allowed access to dietary supplements. The organization also recognizes the systemic damage to medicine done by the mixing of the state (FDA) and of private commercial interests (AMA). This organization, along with Doctors Without Borders, work internationally, but their fields of medicine barely overlap.
Weston A. Price Foundation focuses on natural modes of healing and diet, as well as access to good nutrition, through research, education, and activism. It has also been active in the effort to allow universal access to raw milk.
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) is a non-profit that recognizes the need for separating medicine and state. However, the separation of medicine and industry is only partially recognized, as in the case of opposition to government health insurance, and therefore the group functions through lobbying in Washington, D.C. It is also partisan towards the conservative side in American politics.
American Medical Association (AMA) is a private association of doctors that has held great power in American society over the last century as the third largest lobby group. In addition to the creation of an organization of doctors, it also provides a method of safeguarding the doctor’s financial interest through collaboration with private health insurance companies. It also sets the price of doctor’s services, which reaches into regulation territory. An entanglement of financial interests and legislative interests with the medical profession compromises this organization.
World Health Organization (WHO) is an international organization, which was originally funded only by the 194 member states across the world. It is possible for some of the regulations of the WHO to be binding on the member states, unless they specifically choose to opt out. Since 2005, it has allowed private funding sources, including those of pharmaceutical companies, to contribute millions to its budget, leading to a clear conflict of interest. On the whole, it is an example of an organization wherein both financial and government overreach into health becomes institutionalized on a global scale.