New York’s penal code makes it a felony to practice medicine without a license. I suspect, however, that one potential defendant who is proposing to do just that, will escape prosecution. Meet “Mayor Bloomberg, M.D.”
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg never attended medical school, did not complete a hospital residency, and never has been admitted to the medical profession. Yet this public official – whose ire in recent years has targeted firearms, salt content, fatty foods, and large-sized soft drinks – is now moving to dictate how doctors should be allowed to issue prescription drugs for their patients.
Bloomberg’s limits on the power of doctors who practice in the Big Apple, is based on his opinion that prescription drugs are being widely abused. In Hizzoner’s mind, if something is perceived as being abused – whether soft drinks, firearms, or prescription drugs – it becomes fair game for his heavy hand of regulation.
The guidelines issued by the Mayor strictly limit how doctors in the City’s 11 public hospitals would be able to prescribe drugs. Under this plan, a physician could prescribe pain medication for no longer than three days; the plan also mandates an outright ban on certain long-acting opioid painkillers such as oxycodone and fentanyl patches.
Critics of the plan say it will leave poorer patients, who use the emergency room for primary care, with few options for pain management. Additionally, Bloomberg’s plan almost certainly will increase already stratospheric hospital costs, since patients will be forced to visit doctors’ offices more often in order to obtain prescription refills.
Unfortunately, Nanny Bloomberg is not alone in his assaults on individual choice and on the practice of certain businesses and professions; he simply is one of many cogs in the Big Government machine that is slowly eroding personal and localized control of our day-to-day lives.
People and organizations other than doctors increasingly are assuming power to decide which medications to prescribe or procedures to undertake. More and more, decisions about personal healthcare are no longer made by the treating physicians in consultation with their patients, and based on the doctors’ expertise. Medical care increasingly is being dispensed via a complex web of bureaucrats (welcome to ObamaCare), elected officials (Mayor Bloomberg, M.D.), insurance companies, and even law enforcement agencies (principally DEA, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration).
Reversing or even slowing the expansion of the Nanny State is an intimidating – indeed, Herculean – task, given its hold on contemporary American society. However, there are some steps we can take to begin this process which is so vital to preserving some degree of freedom, independence and innovation.
History has shown that Big Government expands quickest in the immediate aftermath of a crisis — real or manufactured. Knee-jerk responses to temporary and often isolated incidents lead seamlessly to permanent policies that far exceed in scope whatever ill they were intended to remedy.
For example, the federal government’s response to 9/11 gave us the TSA, broad warrantless electronic surveillance of international electronic communications, and some of the most flagrant abuses ever of constitutionally-guaranteed rights. Most recently, in response to last month’s mass murder in Newtown, Connecticut, government officials in New York, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere are rushing to limit Second Amendment rights for millions of law-abiding citizens, even though most of these measures will do little if anything to truly address the causes of such mass shootings.
Likewise, Bloomberg’s plan will do nothing to solve prescription drug abuse. Yet, in pursuit of this new demon, he will further inhibit the ability of doctors to practice medicine effectively; while increasing the costs of running city hospitals. As for the tens of thousands of poorer New Yorkers who will find themselves on the short end of the stick when it comes to pain management, Bloomberg is unconcerned. “So you didn’t get enough painkillers and you did have to suffer a little bit,” Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show. “There’s nothing that you can possibly do where somebody isn’t going to suffer.”
New Yorkers – and freedom-loving citizens across our country – ought to be deeply offended at this cavalier, “let-them-eat-cake” attitude. More than a sense of offense, however, New York’s doctors need to openly and vigorously oppose this assault on their profession.
The Moral Liberal Contributing Editor, Bob Barr, represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 -2003 and as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990.
Bob Barr is the author of The Meaning of Is: The Squandered Impeachment and Wasted Legacy of William Jefferson Clinton (2004), and LESSONS IN LIBERTY (2008), as well as co-author with Gary Aldrich of Thunder on the Left: An Insider’s Report on the Hijacking of the Democratic Party (2003)