Medicine And Slavery: A Perspective From ‘Atlas Shrugged’ By Ayn Rand

By Dick Morris on July 15, 2014

I recently decided to read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. As a liberal, I had never considered it and as a conservative, never gotten around to it.

Last night, I read an eloquent statement by Dr. Hendricks, a character in the novel who was on strike and refused to donate his services to State run medicine. It is worth pondering today. It echoes the cri de coeur of every doctor in America:

“I quit when medicine was placed under State control some years ago. Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I would not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun.

I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, or the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward. I observed that in all the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything except the desires of the doctors.

Men only considered the “welfare” of the patients with no thought for those who were to provide it. That a doctor should have any right, desire or choice in the matter was regarded as irrelevant selfishness, his is not to choose, they said, only “to serve.”

That a man who’s willing to work under compulsion is too dangerous a brute to entrust with a job in the stockyards — never occurred to those who proposed to help the sick by making life impossible for the healthy. I have often wondered at the smugness with which people assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind — yet what is it they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands? Their moral code has taught them to believe that it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims. Well that is the virtue I have withdrawn. Let them discover the kind of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover in their operating rooms and hospital wards that is it not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it — and still less safe if he is the sort who doesn’t.”

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand…p. 740-743.

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