Blog | Thursday, October 22, 2015

Make America and the medical profession great again

Even those who have but a passing interest in the American political know that Donald Trump is:
• very rich.
• leading in every poll.
• going to build a wall that Mexico will pay for.

One of these 3 statements will remain true even if Trump's campaign tanks. He will still be rich. I've heard some of his flailing critics who are claiming that he isn't worth $10 billion, but only $5 billion. Wow, that's a really potent attack strategy. I think that if his net worth is a mere $5 billion that he will manage to squeak by.

Because he is rich, he is self-funding his campaign. He points out repeatedly that his adversaries are taking millions from lobbyists and other special interests who will expect something in return. Of course, these candidates deny this, but we all know the truth here. Remember, access is power. If you donate a seven figure sum to support a candidate or a president, do you think it would be difficult to get your phone calls returned? Do you think that various corporations donate to specific candidates only because these candidates support “good government”? They do so because they want something in return. Many companies take no chances and donate to both Democrats and Republicans.

The New York Times recently reported on a published study that describes the practice of soliciting rich patients for cash to donate to support the physician's research or the medical institution. Readers are invited to review the article to become better informed. Donating to a medical institution is a praiseworthy and ethical act that merits commendation. If a philanthropist donates to support an institution's Alzheimer's research program or cancer vaccine research, then we should all be grateful. If a wealthy family decides to make a generous gift because a family member's life was saved, then everyone wins.

These examples are ethically distinct from a physician directly asking their patients for cash. Some programs try to carve the doctor out of the process while others don't. Shockingly, some doctors were offered a cash reward if his rich patient gave the institution a cash reward.

One not be a graduate student in bioethics to recognize how improper this scheme is. Here are a few crimson flags. Feel free to add your own.
• Should physicians should look upon their patients as revenue reservoirs?
• What preferential medical treatment would a donor expect and receive?
• Would a patient who declines to donate fear or receive lower quality care?
• Would physicians recruit rich patients with the hope of soliciting funds?
• Would a wealthy patient who is seeking care from a select physician be contacted by the development office for a “conversation”?

Who is going to make the medical profession great again?

This post by Michael Kirsch, MD, FACP, appeared at MD Whistleblower. Dr. Kirsch is a full time practicing physician and writer who addresses the joys and challenges of medical practice, including controversies in the doctor-patient relationship, medical ethics and measuring medical quality. When he's not writing, he's performing colonoscopies.