Archives for October 20, 2004

Medical Draft: or, Kool-Aid and You.

In an interesting entry, Graham wishes to alert us to the risk of a possible Medical Skills Draft, via the International Herald Tribune, and the weblogs Blatant Truth and DailyKos (there’re some sites I never thought I’d link). Spend a few minutes reading any of these three and you’ll be left, like me, with the feeling that these are way left-of-center sources of information.

I do not for a minute doubt that our government has plans on the shelf for a medical draft. Planning is one of the things we expect, nee, demand our government do (think of the outrage if there isn’t a plan for relief after every single weather-related disaster). Also, having been in the service, I know that we have plans to invade a couple of countries, and have no doubt that we have a plan, in one form or another, to invade every other country and the moon, and that we have a plan to draft left handed beekeepers should a national need arise.

Planning is a long way from execution. I have a plan to retire, but I’m a long way from pulling it off.

(I recall being told that, at the end of the Berry Plan (a Medical Draft during the Vietnam War), the feds made a deal with the AMA that, if the AMA would keep track of who all the docs are and where they are, the feds wouldn’t require docs to register with the Selective Service. That’s why I never wonder why the AMA always knows where to send my ‘please join’ notices, no matter how many times I move. It could also just be an old doc’s tale. Dunno.)

Medical drafts have happened in our nations’ history, young and midcareered docs and nurses faced a choice, and the overwhelming majority chose honorable service to their country. They were not required to kill for their country, they were needed for their medical skills and training, to provide aid and comfort to the sick and injured, both friend and foe. They served with honor, some reluctantly and some wholeheartedly, but they served when called.

I had the great good fortune to have served with one of these draftees, in the twilight of his career. He’d gotten out after Vietnam and had a terrific vascular surgery practice, then missed the service near retirement and returned, I think just to lead me. He was my Division Surgeon, and his citation for the Navy Cross appears in the extended entry. One hell of a role model.

Not to belabor a point, but every single person who has spoken with authority from the current administration has said, uncategorically, that there will be no draft. No little hidden, ‘but ifs’, etc. They can Just Say No. But, you know, they’re politicians. Like the Democratic politicians who sponsored the only bill calling for a draft. A bill defeated so soundly its own Democratic author didn’t vote for it.

So, for completeness’ sake, let’s think of this from a supply and demand standpoint. This nation has several fully-staffed Military Medical Centers, filled with excellent docs in all stages of training, and nurses (ditto), and there’s no shortage of people vyying for those positions. Several of those facilities have seen their served active duty populations deploy overseas, and though they continue to care for the returned wounded, dependents and retirees in their areas, their committed forces are elsewhere. Were they needed (i.e., a shortage of medical specialists in theatre), they’d be deployed there. I’ve been paying attention, and no such shortage has happened. This current war on terror has created a terrible number of killed and wounded, yet it’s nowhere near the number seen during several single months of fighting in Vietnam. I am NOT minimizing the impact of injury on any single servicemember or their loved ones. I am saddened by every one, and appreciate their sacrifice, but this country is not being overwhelmed by casualties, and has no shortage of medical practioners to tend to the battle fallen.

To finish: No draft. Not going to happen, not for riflemen and certainly not for medical professionals. I find it more than a little depressing that ‘draft fear’ is apparently rampant in the Left, and that scare tactics about drafting (add affected group here) is a powerful (presumable) motivator to vote against GWBush. It must poll terribly well, or it wouldn’t be pushed like this, and to every potential interest group, in this case medical professionals. There’s plenty of reasons to vote against the incumbent president without making up scary things that go bump in the night, and it’s doubly depressing that the idea of service to ones’ country is seen as a catastrophic affliction to be avoided at all costs. The original JFK’s “ask not…” is now a source of bemusement to the Left, not a call to serve ones’ country.

Don’t get all your ideas or information from one side, and stay the hell away from the kool-aid. It’ll give you a funny moustache, and can kill you if you get it from the wrong people.

Update: Comments by MedPundit, Bloodletting, Cut to Cure, and code:theWebSocket.
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