There was a time when bleeding was recommended by doctors. Leeches would have then been included in most any description of medical care, and would have been paid for by the government. The leeches would suck the blood until engorged, and then drop off, or they would drop off when the blood stopped circulating. They were automatic.
But how do you find the leeches in modern-day medicine? They did not set out to be leeches. For a patient to be treated and have a chance to live, we need doctors; nurses; supplies; and a clean hospital with decent food, a laboratory and other technicians. Then there are pharmacists and communications, as well as someone to run our hospitals. But how many of the latter do we need? We know we need an administrator, but how many assistants? The bureaucracy will include thousands of government workers, as well as someone to answer their questions -- none of whom will help anyone get well.
All of the leeches can claim that they are helping others to get well, but do they? If some decision is not made, the program could exceed all costs that are planned. Medicaid and Medicare far exceed their original plans. But all of these people will be added to the cost of medicine. Scary, isn't it?
Then we might add the many people working for drug companies. They must be identified because the leeches will never get engorged and fall off. They will stop only when the patients are dead, or medical care is so limited that they cannot get to people who formerly would have been patients.
Finally, there are not enough doctors in this country to give everyone a physical examination in a timely fashion. But if it is free, the public will demand immediate care. With this system I believe the number of qualified people going into medicine will drop sharply.
People do not go into medicine to work for the government, but to work for the ill. If they wanted to work for the government, they would get 9-to-5 jobs with retirement pensions.
Ernest F. Daniel
(The writer is a retired physician and a diplomate of the American Board of Neurosurgery.)