Political Medicine

Ford Vox, a physician, comments on videos of doctors in Madison, Wisconsin, handing out physician’s notes to excuse union protestors for missing work.

A doctor’s sick note is a serious document. It represents an employer’s desire to verify through a respected, independent, medically qualified third party the fact of an illness and the true need for convalescence. In the videos now circulating online, we witness multiple members of a noted family medicine department trash one of the well-recognized rights and privileges of their profession, with little forethought as to the consequences.

UW’s doctors have demeaned not only the doctor-patient relationship, but in so doing, risked the stature doctors hold in our discourse on public policy. When commenting on social issues, physicians trade on the honor of our profession, benefiting from the public’s assumption that the wisdom won of caring for so many at their most vulnerable imbues us with some privileged understanding of collective need. . . .

These doctors sacrificed a slice of the medical profession’s credibility for a political cause. Was it worth it? The fallout is mounting.

I’d be particularly interested in the thoughts of those familiar with contemporary standards for medical ethics. I find their conduct shocking, but I am more familiar with the standards for professional responsibility for lawyers than for doctors.

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