Universal Healthcare OR History Repeating Itself?

Just about every candidate is spouting the phrase “Universal Healthcare” these days. While it sounds nice on the surface, you have wonder just what they really mean by the term. Are they really interested in ONLY making sure that every citizen is able to get medical care when they need it? Are they really interested in ONLY making sure that every citizen can have health insurance so they can get medical care when needed?

Tobacco Control advocates hate the term “Smoke Nazi”, for obvious reasons. Can’t say I blame them. However, closer examination of history shows they are following Hitler’s playbook, step by step.

The same could be said of todays “Healthists” or “Public Health Professionals” who continually spout off about “lifestyle choices”.

So, is it really “equal access to healthcare for all” that we are talking about here, or is it really a repeat of a very bad time in history?

The National Socialist Medical Welfare State

by David Gordon The following is a talk given at the LRC Health and Wealth Conference in Foster City, California, December 2, 2006.

Almost all the information in the talk, though not my libertarian theme, comes from two books by Robert Proctor: Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis (Harvard, 1988) and The Nazi War on Cancer (Princeton, 1999).

Every society must answer a fundamental question about its medical system. Does each person control his own body? If he does, he has the right to decide what type of medical treatment he wants. If people do not own their own bodies, then medical policy need not respect individual decisions, and individuals can be ruthlessly cast aside for the supposed general welfare.

There is no doubt about how the Nazis answered our question. Paul Diepgen, the leading historian of medicine in the Third Reich and also during the preceding Weimar Republic, said in a book that appeared in 1938: “National Socialism means something fundamentally new for medical life. It has overcome an idea that was central to medicine of the recent past: the idea of the right to one’s own body.” A key Nazi slogan was “The common good is higher than the individual good.”

If individuals do not make the key medical decisions, who does? Inevitably, it is those who control the state. The Nazis denied that they subordinated everything to the state; in contrast to Italian fascism, their propaganda stressed the party rather than the state. But in practice, this did not matter. To them, the welfare of the German people, the Deutsche Volk, was the supreme good; and Hitler, as the Leader of the German people, claimed the right to be the final judge of what best promoted this. In his Berlin Sportspalast speech of January 30, 1941, he declared that he had a democratic mandate and had come to power legally. His will, and the decisions of his chosen subordinates, thus determined medical policy, as it did everything else of significance.

Even alternative medicine was part of the scheme. Herbal and Natural remedies today are under attack (CODEX)

Our conference is concerned with alternative medicine, and so a question naturally arises: How did the Nazis view unorthodox medical systems? One might have expected them to be sympathetic. After all, the Nazi ideology claimed that modern society had become too dominated by urban values. Life was too technologized, and the Nazis said they wanted to return to peasant wisdom. A characteristic book of this period was the novelist and philosopher Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer’s The Philosophy of the Hunting Lodge. Wouldn’t people with such views have an affinity for therapies that promoted natural methods of healing and opposed laboratory medicine? Natural healing was very popular at the time. In November 1934, more than 270,000 people paid for treatment by natural healers, even though they could have received free treatment from government-paid physicians.

At first, the Nazis met our expectations. Gerhard Wagner, the head of the National Socialist Physicians’ League and Leader of German Medicine, favored a unification of standard and alternative medicine. The government provided funds for natural healers, as well as for standard medicine, and the Rudolf Hess Hospital in Dresden specialized in homeopathic medicine.

But, as always, when the state supports something, it takes control. Wagner made clear that alternative healers must be strictly regulated. One major practitioner of alternative medicine found out quickly what this meant. Albert Wolff, the editor of a leading journal of homeopathic medicine, wrote an editorial denouncing compulsory vaccination. (By the way, Herbert Spencer and George Bernard Shaw were also opponents of this practice.) Wolff was threatened with criminal action and his journal had to publish a statement by Wagner forbidding criticism of the government.

The standard doctors strongly opposed natural healing, and their opinion became more and more influential. Alternative medicine still had powerful supporters, including Rudolf Hess, the Deputy-Führer; Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS; and Julius Streicher, the editor of the anti-Semitic newspaper Der Stürmer and Gauleiter of Franconia. (Streicher’s influence declined after 1940, and he was eventually put under house arrest.) By 1939, a law provided that no one could practice as a healer unless enrolled in a government approved program, and natural healers were gradually to be phased out.

National Socialist medical policy thus offers an excellent case study of what happens if a nation embraces the slogan that the common good is higher than the individual good. Exactly the same mentality can be found today in those, such as Judge Richard Posner and John Yoo, who defend torture if this would promote national security. Once more we have the premise that the rights of individuals must bow before what the government deems best for all. Let us hope that those loyal to freedom will be able to overcome this dangerous view, both in medicine and elsewhere.

Just to prove the point further, let’s get a glimpse of where 2008 is heading in Great Britain under their National Health Services (NHS). Understand, that this healthcare is not “free” so to speak either. Taxes fund the healthcare system, though medical care itself is then free to all (which would include this American citizen were she travelling in the UK and in need of medical care).

‘Patients to lose weight before NHS treatment’

Patients could be required to stop smoking, take exercise or lose weight before they can be treated on the National Health Service, Gordon Brown has suggested.

n a New Year message to NHS staff, the Prime Minister indicates people may have to fulfil new “responsibilities” in order to establish their entitlement to care.Despite the NHS commitment to provide free universal care, it is already common for doctors to set conditions on patients seeking treatment.

Can we really trust our elected officials to NOT repeat history? Can we really trust our elected officials to NOT pretend they are the better judge of how we should live our own life? I’m not so sure we can, and I’m really not willing to give them the chance.

The phrase, be careful what you wish for, tends to keep popping up in my head here.


~ by swfreedomlover on January 3, 2008.

One Response to “Universal Healthcare OR History Repeating Itself?”

  1. NO, we Can’t trust them. Given half a chance and less of an inclination these elected officials will tell us they are doing things for OUR OWN GOOD! Ya, right! I haven’t been a child in a very LONG time and I’ll be DAMNED if some yahoo is going to tell me what I have to do, can do or will do to receive medical care.

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