By Peter Barry Chowka

Would you feel comfortable going to a doctor who supports government-run, socialist–communist health care? That may be the decision you have to make now in light of this very disturbing news. Because a majority of American medical doctors now support single-payer socialized medicine.

First, a little history. For the past century, socialists, progressives, communists, statists, and an increasing number of Democrats have supported the imposition of a government-run socialized medical care system in the United States. Every Democrat president since FDR (except JFK and possibly Jimmy Carter) has spoken in favor of or introduced a plan for socialized medicine. Now, it finally appears that a critical mass has been achieved and the Rubicon has been crossed.

A Quinnipiac University national poll on August 3, 2017 reported “Replacing the current health care system with a single payer system in which Medicare covers every American citizen is a good idea, voters say 51-38 percent.” This reported majority support for single-payer – a scheme supported by Sen. Bernie Sanders and most other leading Democrats – reflects recent samplings of public opinion by Pew Research and other polling organizations. Citing a September 28, 2017 Quinnipiac survey, a CNN article on September 30, “Majority of Democratic voters are all-in on single-payer,” further advanced the story:

Asked in a new Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday whether they support a single-payer system, in which the federal government would expand Medicare to cover the medical expenses of every American citizen, nearly two in three Democratic voters (65%) said it was a “good idea.”

That result mostly fell in line with other recent surveys, which have shown increased backing among liberals and independents, with a slight upward trend across the board.

But the Quinnipiac poll pushed harder, incorporating another key detail into a subsequent question – the specter of a tax hike.

“Would you think that a single-payer system is a good idea or a bad idea if it removed all health insurance premiums, but also increased your taxes?” the pollsters asked. With the added information, support dropped, but not as much as one might expect. Fifty-nine percent, just slightly down from 65%, still called it a “good idea.”

A “good idea” now that was once considered anathema and un-American

During the entire 20th century, the American Medical Association (AMA), the nation’s largest organization of physicians, strongly opposed socialized medicine. By and large, most of the American people and their political leaders were with the AMA. That began to change in 1993 when Bill and Hillary Clinton pushed their unsuccessful but groundbreaking national health care reform plan right out of the box. Meanwhile, medical education, like most higher education around that time, had institutionalized promoting socialism and indoctrinating new students in collectivist concepts like “health care as a right.” The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) in particular took up the charge for government-run health care and the nation’s nursing associations, hotbeds of social justice, socialism, and radical, anti-hierarchy activism, also started mobilizing for the long march ahead.

Another recent survey has found that a majority of the nation’s doctors – not just idealistic medical students – are now for the first time finally and fully on board with government-guaranteed and -run universal health care. This revelation suggests that another long-standing wall against socialized medicine has been breached.  MDLinx: “The majority of United States physicians—56%—support a single-payer health care system,” according to the survey, conducted by Merritt Hawkins, a Dallas-based physician recruitment search firm.

The survey relied on detailed responses from over one thousand licensed physicians who were asked about single-payer. According to the MDLinx article:

The 2017 results, according to a Merritt Hawkins news release, “contrast with a national survey of physicians Merritt Hawkins conducted in 2008, which indicated that 58 percent of physicians opposed single-payer at that time while 42 percent supported it.” Merritt Hawkins cites four reasons why a growing number of physicians are now in favor of single-payer. “First, they are seeking clarity and stability.”

Second, it’s a generational issue. The various surveys that Merritt Hawkins has conducted for The Physicians Foundation in the past show that younger doctors are more accepting of Obamacare, ACOs, EHR, and change in general than are older physicians As the new generation of physicians comes up, there is less resistance among doctors to single-payer.

Third, there is a feeling of resignation rather than enthusiasm among some physicians about single-payer. These physicians believe we are drifting toward single payer and would just as soon get it over with. [emphasis added.] The 14% of physicians surveyed who said they “somewhat” support single-payer are probably in this group.

Fourth, there is a philosophical change among physicians that I think the public and political leaders on both sides of the aisle now share, which is that we should make an effort to cover as many people as possible.

Travis Singleton, Senior Vice President of Merritt Hawkins, commented: “Physicians appear to have evolved on single-payer. Whether they are enthusiastic about it, are merely resigned to it, or are just seeking clarity, single-payer is a concept many physicians appear to be embracing.”

Some of the comments by doctors who responded to the Merritt Hawkins survey as reported by MDLinx  are revealing.

“As a CPA and an MD, I believe strongly in a single-payer system that removes the insurance industry from the medical delivery system. We must restore the sacred relationship between patient and physician, and only when we move toward a single-payer system can we ever restore it,” said pediatrician Craig M. Uhl, MD, of Palm Desert, CA.

“A governmental program with basic insurance paid by income taxes and contracted out to insurance companies by the individual states with standard forms, denials, and expected payments would simplify medical practice,” said OB/GYN and professor emeritus Selman Welt, MD, of Johnson City, TN. “Despite all the complaints against Medicare and Medicaid, they pay promptly and you know how they will react and how to make appeals. Then if some people want a more deluxe plan, the insurance companies can provide that with a second tier of standardized services.”

“We would probably earn less per patient, but more people would get needed health care so it would average the same,” said psychiatrist Jed Shapiro, MD, of Boulder, CO.

“Currently, medical and surgical subspecialists are overpaid (and ideally should earn less) and generalists are underpaid (and ideally should earn more),” said cardiologist Wade Martin, MD, of St. Louis, MO.

Not all of the respondents were enthralled with the possibility of single-payer.

“I do not care about the money,” said osteopath and family medicine physician Harold Kornylak, DO, of Virginia Beach, VA. “It would destroy free choice, individual responsibility, innovation, and make medical care like working for McDonald’s.”

The field of innovative alternative medicine has sold out, too

At one time in fairly recent history, for example during the 1970s and ‘80s, the growing field of innovative alternative medicine was a hotbed for support for medical freedom and many alternative medicine providers and patients were active politically in that area of ensuring medical freedom of choice. That began to change in the 1990s when, as I can report from personal experience, many among the new generation of natural medicine students and practitioners began to be influenced by, and then started espousing, pro-socialist ideas relating to medical care.

Eventually, entire professions of so-called alternative medicine were seduced and co-opted to abandon their commitments to medical freedom and pluralism and jump on the bandwagon of single-payer. Insidiously, federal agencies at the National Institutes of Health and elsewhere burrowed in the Deep State bureaucracy, supposedly established to integrate alternative medicine into the mainstream, assisted in that co-optation and seduction.

The collectivist impulse that is enveloping society has now blossomed into full-scale support for socialized medicine on the part of natural health care physicians’ groups, like those representing licensed naturopathic doctors. A 2013 article about Obamacare published by a leading naturopathic medical school, Bastyr University in Washington, for example, was titled “Health Care Reform Extends Reach of Naturopathic Medicine.” That same year, the author of an article at the Web site of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians wrote glowingly about a particular section of Obamacare, that it “offers naturopathic medicine a true watershed, and we’re making the most of this golden opportunity.”

 Nicholas Gonzalez, M.D. (1947-2015) photographed in his office February 2005 Photo © by Peter Barry Chowka

One of innovative medicine’s most acclaimed practitioners, the late Nicholas Gonzalez, M.D., spoke frequently about the Faustian bargain represented by socialized medicine and its fellow traveling Pied Pipers. He pointed to government-controlled health care’s incompatibility with medical innovation and freedom. When Gonzalez passed away suddenly in July 2015, the world lost a clear and articulate voice for sanity in health care, including the politics of medicine.

In 2005, in a lengthy interview that I did with Gonzalez on socialized medicine, he commented:

Medical science always thrives when there’s freedom to think independently. Socialized medicine doesn’t allow that because it requires physicians to practice according to preset standards. That’s the way the Canadian system is. You can’t deviate from those standards at all. The trouble is that medicine is not a fixed science. It requires creativity, originality in thinking in new ways. Socialized medicine doesn’t allow that. If socialized medicine worked, they would have had to build a Berlin Wall to keep people out. Instead, they had to build the Berlin Wall to keep people in because they were trying to escape socialism and socialized medicine.

Peter Chowka has reported on health care, with an emphasis on alternative medicine, since 1972. Between 1992-’94 he was an advisor to the National Institutes of Health. His Web site is AltMedNews.net. Follow Peter on Twitter. An archive of Peter’s articles at The Hagmann Report can be accessed here.

By Peter Barry Chowka

The short life of Charlie Gard came to an end on Friday afternoon, July 28 (London time) when the baby, who had become an international cause célèbre, died at a hospice one week shy of his first birthday. A British High Court judge had ordered the move from hospital to hospice, and that Charlie be disconnected from a respirator so that he could die. On Friday evening, Charlie’s mother, Connie Yates, announced that her only child had passed away earlier that afternoon.

As the Telegraph reported at 6:56 PM Friday London time (1:56 PM US EDT), in a dispatch by its chief reporter Robert Mendick:

At just after 6.30 this evening, [Charlie’s] mother, Connie Yates, announced: “Our beautiful little boy has gone.” The breathing tube attached to a ventilator had been removed. He is thought to have died a few minutes later.

Charlie’s story gained major international attention as a result of his parents’ efforts to challenge his British doctors and have their son transferred to New York for innovative experimental therapy at Columbia University Medical Center for his extremely rare and fatal condition, mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. Since April, Yates and Charlie’s father Chris Gard have been in and out of court battling the London hospital where Charlie had been a patient since he was two months old. Legal rulings, including an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, consistently went against the wishes of the parents.

The British doctors had opposed Charlie’s move to New York since February, claiming that his medical prognosis was hopeless and that he should be allowed to die. The heartbreaking case quickly catapulted to the top domestic news story in England and in recent weeks it has drawn major attention and media coverage in scores of countries around the world, with input in support of the parents coming from Pope Francis and President Donald Trump – all of it to no avail in terms of influencing a different legal outcome.

On Monday of this week, the parents conceded that their battle had come to an end and agreed that Charlie should be allowed to pass on. The final disagreement and unresolved debate with the hospital went on until Thursday afternoon, centering around on how long Connie Yates and Chris Gard would have to say goodbye to Charlie before he was disconnected from life support.

The end came quickly after Mr. Justice Francis decreed Charlie’s move to hospice and disconnection from his ventilator in a terse order dated Wednesday and released by the High Court in London on Thursday. Within 24 hours, Charlie was gone.

The death of baby Charlie does not resolve the difficult issues that were raised during months of legal wrangling. The main disagreement involved who should decide the medical treatment, and the fate, of a sick child – his parents or the state, representing the will of the doctors. In the UK, physicians work for the state where the system of health care delivery is government-controlled, single-payer socialized medicine.

In the United States, with single-payer now being proposed by the leadership of the Democratic Party, and a growing number of voters supporting the system according to public opinion polls, Americans were paying particularly close attention to the Charlie Gard story – many of them not without a feeling of fear and dread for what may be in store for the USA.

Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who writes about national politics, media, popular culture, and health care. His new Web site is AltMedNews.net. Peter’s July 28, 2017 90-minute long interview on The Hagmann Report in which the Charlie Gard story was discussed at length can be viewed here. Peter’s segment begins 31 minutes into the program.

By Peter Barry Chowka

On Monday, July 24, the parents of terminally ill 11-month old British baby Charlie Gard agreed with his doctors to end life support and allow him to die. It was assumed that the court proceeding in London where this decision was announced would be the final occasion requiring the parents’ presence in court, allowing them to focus now on being with their son until the end. As it turned out, Connie Yates, Charlie’s mother, felt the need to return to the same court on Tuesday and Wednesday and appeal to the same judge for help.

In court on Monday, all of the interested parties – the parents, the hospital, the attorneys, and the judge – seemed to be trying hard to sound a note of unity. Before the next day, this feel-good front had dissolved when the hospital and the doctors refused to honor the parents’ wishes to allow Charlie to die at home. This request does not seem unreasonable considering the fact that Charlie has spent all but the first two months of his short life in hospital. High Court Judge Nicholas Francis sided with the hospital on that issue, but it was back to court again on Wednesday for another appeal by Connie Yates, this time to allow the parents the choice of the hospice staff to oversee Charlie’s final days and the length of time that he might be kept alive in hospice with the help of life support. The parents want Charlie to be on a respirator for at least several days after he leaves the hospital to allow them a decent length of time in a supportive environment to say goodbye.

 Crying uncontrollably and shielding her face from photographers, Connie Yates leaves the British High Court, July 26, 2017

After the latest court hearing, the AP reported Wednesday afternoon from London:

Yates requested a medical team of her choosing that would work to keep her son alive for a week under hospice care rather than the few hours he was expected to survive once his ventilator was removed.

The request indicated that the parents have backed away from their earlier expressed wish to take Charlie home for “a few days of tranquility” before his ventilator was disconnected and he was allowed to “slip away.”

Wherever Charlie winds up spending his last days, nurses from the hospital have volunteered to care for him in his final hours.

Mr. Justice Francis said the situation calls out “for mediation” rather than a court ruling, but he said he would rule on the details of Charlie’s future on Thursday at noon PST (British Summer Time) if the parties could not agree.

Less than five hours before the scheduled Thursday noon deadline, the Daily Mail published an article summarizing the latest information.

Great Ormond Street doctors said it was not practical to provide life-support treatment to Charlie at the couple’s home for days. They said a hospice would be a better plan, and they said life-support treatment should end shortly after Charlie arrived at a hospice.

 Charlie Gard and his parents, Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, England

The Mirror published a running and riveting account of developments during Wednesday’s court hearing, as did attorney and journalist Joshua Rozenberg who tweeted live updates from the courtroom.

Dr. Hirano Speaks

On July 15, it was revealed that Michio Hirano, M.D., a specialist in neurological disorders including the very rare condition that Charlie Gard has, was the expert who had been confidentially weighing in on Charlie’s case since earlier this year. Dr. Hirano, 56, is involved in innovative research and clinical practice at Columbia University Medical Center in New York and has a list of positions, accomplishments, publications, and research grants that have resulted in significant international recognition.

After the court hearing on Monday, July 24, during which it was agreed that life support for Charlie would come to an end and treatment of Charlie in New York by Dr. Hirano would not be attempted, Dr. Hirano suddenly became an apparent scapegoat and a target of the hospital, the judge, and much of the media. Overnight, this previous miracle worker (who had saved the life of another young patient afflicted with the condition that Charlie Gard has) became a “quack,” “wicked,” and a pariah who was only in it for the financial rewards, with allegations that he stood to profit from the therapies he was experimenting with and was prepared to use on Charlie.

 Michio Hirano, M.D., Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY

On Tuesday, Dr. Hirano finally spoke out in the form of a statement – the first time he has said anything on the record (other than in court) about this case and its aftermath.

In a July 26 article, “US doctor Michio Hirano who flew to London to examine Charlie Gard after offering experimental treatment hits back at ‘financial interest’ claims,” The Sun does a credible job of summarizing the case in light of Dr. Hirano’s new input.

In his first public statement since their decision, Dr Hirano hit back at reports he would have benefited financially from the therapies.

He said: “I became involved in Charlie’s case when I was contacted by his parents, and I subsequently agreed to speak with his doctors to discuss whether an experimental therapy being developed in my lab could provide meaningful clinical improvement in Charlie’s condition.

“As I disclosed in court on July 13, I have relinquished and have no financial interest in the treatment being developed for Charlie’s condition.”

In this first out of court public statement on the case itself, Dr. Hirano, according to The Sun, went on to say:

“Unfortunately, a [sic] MRI scan of Charlie’s muscle tissue conducted in the past week has revealed that it is very unlikely that he would benefit from this treatment.”

The statement “on GOSH patient Charlie Gard” released by the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) on July 24 took on Dr. Hirano:

GOSH was concerned to hear the Professor state, for the first time [on July 13], whilst in the witness box, that he retains a financial interest in some of the NBT compounds he proposed prescribing for Charlie.

For what it’s worth, Dr. Hirano, according to The Sun, stated that he disclosed to the court on July 13 that he “relinquished and have no financial interest in the treatment.” It is probably water under the bridge at this point, but it would be helpful in setting the record straight if the court record could be consulted by someone with access to it to determine who is telling the truth here.

Before Dr. Hirano’s name was revealed, I thought that whoever it was – at that point an unnamed foreign expert who was getting involved in the Charlie Gard case –would wind up being a victim of unwarranted attacks for his efforts and would have his reputation besmirched. And so it was.

The sudden negative publicity directed at Dr. Hirano starting on July 24 suggests that other hospitals in London that declined to provide care for Charlie Gard at the request of his parents feared the same thing. For example, on July 11 it was reported in The Telegraph that “Hospitals refuse to take Charlie Gard as relations between his parents and Great Ormond Street plummet:”

Relations between Charlie Gard’s parents and Great Ormond Street deteriorated to such an extent that attempts were made to move the baby – but no other hospital would have him.

A lawyer said discussions had taken place with other units to care for Charlie but “unsurprisingly” none wanted him.

 Baby Charlie Gard and his parents in his hospital room

The latest word from Charlie’s parents – for now

Finally, in the wake of the blizzard of legal briefs and statements issued by different players during and after the July 24 court hearing, the most complete, informative, and compelling one is the statement by Charlie’s parents Connie Yates and Chris Gard, read to the court from the witness stand on July 24 by Connie:

Put simply, this is about a sweet, gorgeous, innocent little boy who was born with a rare disease, who had a real, genuine chance at life and a family who love him so very dearly and that’s why we fought so hard for him.

We are truly devastated to say that following the most recent MRI scan of Charlie’s muscles, as requested in the recent MDT meeting by Dr Hirano; as Charlie’s devoted and loving parents we have decided that it’s no longer in Charlie’s best interests to pursue treatment and we will let our son go and be with the angels.

The American and Italian team were still willing to treat Charlie after seeing both his recent brain MRI and EEG performed last week. He’s not brain dead (and never has been). He still responds to us, even now, but after reviewing the recent muscle MRI it was considered that Charlie’s muscles have deteriorated to the extent that it is largely irreversible and, were treatment to work, his quality of life would now not be one which we would want for our precious little boy. They both agreed that treatment should have been started sooner.

There is one simple reason for Charlie’s muscles deteriorating to the extent they are in now – TIME. A whole lot of wasted time. Had Charlie been given the treatment sooner he would have had the potential to be a normal, healthy little boy.

The parents’ statement goes on for over 2,000 words and is highly recommended reading. It closes with:

Mummy and Daddy love you so much Charlie, we always have and we always will and we are so sorry that we couldn’t save you.

Sweet dreams baby. Sleep tight our beautiful little boy.

Charlie Matthew William Gard

Our hero.

Update:

Shortly after 11 AM EST (3 PM in London) Thursday, July 27, 2017, it started to be reported by the British press and the media in other countries that Mr. Justice Francis of the UK High Court had given an order for baby Charlie Gard to be moved without further delay from the Great Ormond Street Hospital to a hospice where he will “inevitably” die shortly after. The time of the transfer and the name of the hospice are not being announced in order to maintain the family’s privacy. Charlie’s parents, as this article notes, had accepted that Charlie would be moved to a hospice but they wanted him kept on life support there – and had lined up volunteer medical personnel and were willing to pay the costs – for a period of approximately one week so they could have some quiet and private time with their son before they let him go. The judge’s order came after the parents and the hospital had failed to agree on the details of a final plan for Charlie after a deadline of noon British time on July 27, given to them the day before by the judge, had passed.

This latest sad chapter in the lengthy story of Charlie Gard that has consumed Great Britain and been reported widely around the world provides more evidence – as if any is needed – that in the British system of single-payer socialized medicine, the state has the final say over the details of life and death of its citizens, rather than, as in this instance, the parents of a baby.

Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who writes about national politics, media, popular culture, and health care. His new Web site is AltMedNews.net. Peter’s July 13, 2017 one-hour interview on The Hagmann Report can be viewed here

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