The medical profession for generations remained largely immune from the partisan politics that has affected virtually every other sector of our society, helping to protect the sacred bond of trust between doctor and patient from the rancor of petty, partisan political ideologies.
Starting with gun control several years ago, and accelerating now with the Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning Roe v. Wade, that bond is fraying significantly with woke doctors latching onto such issues as a way to tout their ideological bona fides.
In one clear example of this, dozens of graduating doctors from the University of Michigan walked out of their “white coat“ ceremony to protest a speaker who was to address them not on pro-life issues, but who was simply known as being pro-life.
While most people have little if any concern about the politics of an auto mechanic or a cashier at the grocery store, this understandably is not the case when it comes to doctors who openly, and even hostilely, espouse radical opinions affecting the medical profession and treatment of patients.
Consider, for instance, the trend of emergency medicine physicians jumping into the gun control debate to assert their “expert” policy perspective on gunshot wounds. While it is true that these doctors see first-hand the effects of such violence, many are eager to share their opinions on such matters as the “lethality” of and need for “assault weapons.”
Such views have nothing to do with treatment of patients, and often are not based on any degree of real knowledge about how firearms function or the ballistic properties of differing types and calibers of ammunition. These gratuitous opinions by medical doctors on “gun control” and “weapons of war” are then widely circulated by gun-control advocates as “medical” evidence supporting stricter gun control measures.
Dr. Anthony Fauci did much the same thing during the COVID pandemic. While the good doctor is an infectious disease specialist, when he made (and continues to make) his incessant calls for mandates and lockdowns, he presented himself, and was allowed to do so by two presidents, as something much broader — as a public policy expert. This injected a harmful degree of legal and constitutional confusion into the handling of an already complex pandemic and wound up costing billions of dollars and perhaps thousands of lives.
Physicians are not alone in this trend to politicize and weaponize virtually every facet of our society. America has a long history of profession-based politics, from college professors to union leaders and from Hollywood actors and producers to super-rich athletes. Doctors, however, have in the past been, and should be, held to a higher standard, considering that objectivity and stoicism are essential components of their profession and of their responsibilities to patients relying on them.
Every physician will speak to the importance of patients being honest and upfront with them when answering questions about their health and lifestyle choices, as this allows the doctor to treat patients better and more accurately. But as doctors become more openly involved in publicly partisan politics in their handling of medical issues, the risks increase that patients will alter their answers based on how they believe their doctor will judge them, or worse, refuse to treat them or report them to the authorities for some perceived “threat” to themselves or others.
A 2016 study from Yale researchers suggested politics does in fact impact how physicians treat their patients, so this is hardly a hypothetical debate. As physicians become more radicalized and embrace the progressive rule that protest is itself the most noble of actions, patients have a right to be concerned about the politicization of a profession on which they rely for their health and very lives.
Doctors do not surrender their constitutionally guaranteed right to hold and express opinions, including on current public policy matters, by virtue of being certified to practice medicine. Increasingly, however, physicians are going beyond this and signaling to patients and peers that their opinions take precedence over treatments and access to medical care.
In so doing, doctors clearly have forgotten, or have chosen to deliberately ignore, the following key language from the Hippocratic Oath to which they swore allegiance: “[to] remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings.”
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.