America’s doctors leaning left, and other medical news

A Higgs boson walks into a church.

The priest stops it and says, “Sorry, my son, but we don’t allow Higgs bosons to worship here.”

The Higgs boson replies, “But, Father, without me how can you have mass?”

Think of most doctors as stodgy old right-wingers? Many of us are, but a surprising number are middle of the road, and some are almost progressive.

However, the physicians in federal government often tend to be conservative Tea Party types or Libertarians (wannabe Republicans who want to avoid the stigma of the name “Republican,” or actual Republican doctors in Congress. We’ve heard a lot from a few of them (the Pauls) and seen the results from some others, like Rep. Scott DesJarlais. But there are signs that more of America’s doctors are coming around to the progressive side of various issues.

For example, the American Medical Association, in the last few years, has pointed out areas in which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are underserved, and has formed a GLBT Advisory Committee, has a site for GLBT health resources, and is working on things like GLBT outreach.

Internationally, lots of progressive doctors are politically active. Unidentified people holding gay marriage support banner at protest on August 11 2012 in Brisbane, Australia. paintings / Shutterstock.com

Internationally, lots of progressive doctors are politically active. Unidentified people holding gay marriage support banner at protest on August 11 2012 in Brisbane, Australia. paintings / Shutterstock.com

Also, the AMA is supportive of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), and is working to help implement it by supplying information to doctors, and advocating for it with local governments. They are also providing information for doctors to share with their patients regarding the ACA.

A recent poll in the Journal of the American Medical Association asked if hospitals that accepted federal funds should be required to provide birth control and, possibly, abortion services for their patients, regardless of the hospitals’ stance on those issues. Last time I checked, about 66% or physicians who responded said that hospitals should have to provide these services.

The New England Journal of Medicine, in its October 4th, 2013 edition, has an editorial called “The ACA Standoff.” The NEJM is one of the most widely respected medical journals in the world with a history that goes back a few hundred years.

The reason for the government shutdown is a political standoff over funding for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Since the United States is a democracy, the best way to reopen the government — which provides numerous important services in the health sector, such as approval of drugs, devices, and diagnostics, surveillance for emerging infectious diseases, research into the biology and treatment of disease — is to make your views known to your representatives in Congress. Your voice will become part of the wave that eventually spurs the House of Representatives to act.

Sadly, not all doctors have seen the light. Signs at a Doctor's Tea Party Rally at Spanish Landing in San Diego, CA on Saturday August 7, 2010. (oconnelll / Shutterstock.com)

Sadly, not all doctors have seen the light. Signs at a Doctor’s Tea Party Rally at Spanish Landing in San Diego, CA on Saturday August 7, 2010. (oconnelll / Shutterstock.com)

As a medical journal, we do not have an official opinion on whether the ACA is a good or bad thing. As physicians practicing in Massachusetts, where a program similar to the ACA has been in place for a number of years, we strongly support it. Before reform in Massachusetts, we saw too many patients who were devastated by a freak accident or an unexpected diagnosis of cancer; we saved bodies and bankrupted lives. Now, when fate strikes a cruel blow to citizens of Massachusetts, we can fix their bodies and preserve their lives. To us, supporting the ACA makes moral and medical sense. All of us will need medical attention at some point in our lives. When that point comes, we should not have to worry about whether we can pay for it.

As health care professionals, we are very close to the issues that have our government in shutdown. We must lead by example. The well-being of our patients depends on it. Let your representative know that you are in the health business and where you stand.

A forceful and powerful opinion.

These beginnings might help us get more liberal physicians into government over time.

In some other medically related information:

* Did you know that Lysol used to be recommended as a vaginal douche and abortifacient? Lehn and Fink, Lysol’s makers at that time (pre-1950s), recommended it for that purpose in spite of a number of deaths associated with its use for “feminine hygiene.” The mind boggles.

* 4,000 year-old human brains found in (reasonably) good shape. They were boiled in the skulls of their owners and that, along with some other factors, preserved them fairly well. Possibly well enough to allow for study to see what kind of pathology might have been going on in people that long ago (tumors, strokes, infections and other possibilities).

* Science spoof. I wrote a while back about some issues with scientific research being deliberately incorrect, plagiarized, falsified and generally untrustworthy. Some creative authors deliberately tried to get falsified (and easily verified as such) scientific papers published. And they succeeded – in dozens of journals. Read about one of the “authors,” “Ocorrafoo Cobange” of the “Wassee Institute of Medicine,” here.

* And finally, because of the governmental shutdown, more people will die. (Please see Becca Morn’s excellent piece on the shutdown and how it affects research at the National Institutes of Health). Because of the Republicans’ fiscal irresponsibility, the NIH, CDC and many other government health/medical agencies have been hamstrung. Enrollment in clinical trials has halted. Many of these trials have to do with cancer therapies. For the enrollees, these trials may be a last shot at getting a few more months of life, or, in very rare instances, a cure.

These people don’t have time to “wait out” the shutdown.

Even more cruel, if possible, is that some of these patients, knowing that their chances of survival are limited, may want to enroll to help scientists gather data. Data that may be useful in treating future cancer patients. This may be a last attempt by some of these cancer sufferers to make a contribution to others before they die.

Tremendously sad.


Mark Thoma, MD, is a physician who did his residency in internal medicine. Mark has a long history of social activism, and was an early technogeek, and science junkie, after evolving through his nerd phase. Favorite quote: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science... is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny.'” - Isaac Asimov

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  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcrEqIpi6sg Moderator4

    You are banned. Take your bigoted opinions elsewhere.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    “Homosexuality is without question a dysfunction in the epigenetic mechanism aka birth defect.””the facts are on the side of pursuing a such a cure.” Thank you Dr. Mengele. You sick f**k.

  • Guest

    Scientists at the Karolinska Institute studied brain scans of gay and straight men and women, and found that the size of the two symmetrical halves of the brains of gay men more closely resembled those of straight women than they did straight men. the birth defect of homosexuality/transgender is that it leaves the sufferer with a body and mind that is at dysfunctional cross-purposes. This is irrefutable.
    A new study published in Biological Psychiatry demonstrated how pedophilic patients responded to functional brain imaging. During the test, the screening showed that brain area hypothalamus responsible for regulating of sexual arousal and hormone release was reduced in pedophilic patients. The activation of this brain region in individuals who are not pedophilic would normally be heightened when they look at sexually arousing pictures of adults.
    Thus pedophila is in the same class of dirthdefect as homosexuality, in that body and mind that is at dysfunctional cross-purposes. The whole point is that pedophila and homosexuality were on the list for the same miscatogorized reason. The overall point being that the APA’s taxonomy is nothing more than self-serving nonsense. Real illnesses are not banished by voting or by fiat, but by valid science and hard work.
    “homosexuality is caused by ‘under-exposure to prenatal androgens’ in males and ‘over-exposure’ in females. “Says doctor Rice of University of California Santa Barbara
    Indeed, soon there will be supplements prescribed for women during gestation to prevent se#uality related defect-causing aberrations from occurring, just like taking high doses of folate when pregnant greatly reduces the epigenetic dysfunction from occurring that causes spina bifida.
    Homosexuality is without question a dysfunction in the epigenetic mechanism aka birth defect. Well, what I find of interest there is how so many find it abhorrent to even consider looking at such a cure. Almost as bad as doing oil exploration. Apparently, (given history with the AMA, and the APA for example, as I point out in the older peice) the whole world crashes around some folks when the medical community calls homosexuality something to be cured… even when the facts are on the side of pursuing a such a cure. Ruins the whole day of people who have sepnt their entire lives trying to get the rest of us to believe it’s ‘normal’ only to find the assertion was not true. Should we hide from such facts based on hurting someone’s feelings?..

  • fletcher

    There are some doctors who support the political right. Bad doctors. Dr. Paul Broder, who in 1986 lost what was then the largest malpractice award in Illinois history for turning a woman who an ear infection into a vegetable due to poor diagnosis and unnecessary surgery, is one. After losing the lawsuit, he lost his medical license in Illinois. After being rejected for a license in Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas, he got one in Arizona and resumed practice near Tucson. So I was surprised to see his letter to the editor in The Wall Street Journal in January 2010 backing a Republican healthcare bill that was supposed to reduce medical costs by shielding doctors from malpractice lawsuits and setting a top dollar limit on claims. Bastard!

  • S1AMER

    The IHiggs boson joke is just groaningly awful. And I love it!

  • Bj Lincoln

    The AMA support makes a world of difference. I am one of those who will benefit greatly from the ACA. Currently my wife and I are disabled with a small income from her computer repair business at home. We have state insurance which is a wellness program. They can’t help past giving flu shots and prescriptions. Getting the MRI’s we need to file for SSD costs too much. Everything is out of our reach. My Mom has great insurance. No waiting for hours to see a free doctor. She has the same doctor for years while I have a different one almost every visit. She is also a Republican just outside the extreme right edge. She really does not think I deserve health care and it’s my fault I don’t have it.
    She has called in tears because she believes the lies being told on FOX, Glen Beck, Rush…..you get the point. I have sent her page after page of information and commentary so thank you for more and how the shutdown is affecting science.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Yeah… I even thought about trying to make a list, but it quickly grew too long for a comment. I might turn it into one of my ‘litany’ posts in a few days, of all the ways a federal government shut down hurts little people, specifically. Things like, “Your local pre-school just closed. Why? No more Head Start.” And, “Expecting a farm subsidy check? Or a tax refund? Keep waiting.” And, “Better re-empty your kid’s bedroom because he or she will be back home from college soon. Federal student aid is suspended.” And, “Your Nana needs a letter from Social Security to qualify for winter heating oil assistance? Too bad. Even if she had the letter, which she can’t get due to the shutdown, the LIHEAP program isn’t funded. If she catches pneumonia due to the cold, she may be S.O.L. there, too, because even Medicare has said it may not have the legal authority to continue payments in the event of federal default.”

    Something even more specific and personal than that one I put up the other day.

  • Monoceros Forth

    I doubt whether the teabagging crazies even know what the federal government is or what it does or how it works, or have the slightest inclination to educate themselves on the matter. I’m sure it’s all just a hazy composite picture of fat librul congressmen and faceless bureaucrats asleep at their desks and spiteful regulators and taxmen.

  • Bill_Perdue

    The shutdown is politicized cruelty against working people.

    So are the austerity programs of the Democrats and both result from the unquestionable ownership of the twin parties of lesser evilism by the rich. Neither parry is democratic in their internal operations or in relation to political life. Neither is fit to govern.

    Glad to see that some doctors favor marriage equality.

    Obamacare is a step backwards whose minor reforms are meant to disguise the betrayal of everything from the public option to ‘medicare for all’ to socialized medicine which is what working people really need.

    Obamacare, in addition to being a betrayal born of corruption, secret meetings and bribery of Obama and Congress, cements the control of the health care industry by insurance and pharmaceutical companies and dooms patients to bad treatment while making the rich richer.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Anybody who thinks the federal government shutdown is either no big deal or a good thing has no effin’ clue how much they do, or how much government is needed to run what is essentially a global empire.

    It’s like driving a car at high speed, then suddenly deciding, “To hell with it, I don’t feel like driving anymore. I’ll just hop in the back seat here and hope for the best. I’m sure nothing bad will happen since we’re going in a straight line right now.”

    I am glad to hear the medical community is leaning progressive these days. Not that long ago, the AMA was one of the biggest enemies of health care reform.

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