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LETTER FROM THE EDITORS

 

Everyone should have health insurance? I say everyone should have health care. I’m not selling insurance.

—Dennis Kucinich, U.S. Congressman

This is government taking control of one-sixth of the economy. In one signature they will take one-sixth of the economy. They will take your arteries, your valves and your pancreas. Yes, you heard me. Your pancreas is at stake. But don’t worry because the government can save it, because there’s a choice we’re making. We are the world. Can I get an amen!

—Glenn Beck, radio and television personality

Socrates: Yet the true city, in my view, is the one we have described: the healthy one, as it were. But if you also want to look at a feverish city, so be it. There is nothing to stop us. You see, the things I mentioned earlier, and the way of life I described, won’t satisfy some people, it seems; but couches, tables and other furniture will have to be added to it, and relishes of course, and incense, perfumes, prostitutes, pastries— and the multifariousness of each of them. In particular, we cannot just provide them with the necessities we mentioned at first, such as houses, clothes, and shoes; no, instead we will have to get painting and embroidery going, and procure gold and ivory and everything of that sort. … And if we live like that, won’t we have a far greater need for doctors than we did before?

—Plato, Republic

The characteristic manifestation of disease is, thus, when the identity of the entire organic concept, as the successive course of life’s movement through its different moments, sensibility, irritability and reproduction, presents itself as fever. This fever is to the same extent both the isolated activity in opposition to the course of totality, and the effort towards and beginning of healing.

—Hegel, Philosophy of Nature

The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore the physician must start from nature, with an open mind.

—Paracelsus, Renaissance scientist

Géronte: It seems to me that you are locating them wrongly: the heart is on the left and the liver is on the right.
Sganarelle: Yes, in the old days that was so, but we have changed all that, and we now practice medicine by a completely new method.

—Molière, The Doctor in Spite of Himself

I always thought I might want to be a doctor. Where else could you ask a woman to take off her clothes and send the bill to her husband?

—Bob Dylan, Theme Time Radio Hour

Early in their history the Chinese are reported to have paid doctors their regular fees so long as people remained well. If and when a person became ill, the medical fees stopped until the patient was restored to health. We, in the West, follow an opposite practice. We pay our doctors when we get sick and continue to pay them while we remain sick. The longer and the more serious the sickness, the longer the medical fees are paid. The lesson of such a situation is obvious to any reasoning being. If the doctor is paid when his clients are sick, the more often they are sick, the more often the doctor will get a fee. Equally, the longer the sickness lasts and the more often the doctor is called in, the larger the income of the doctor.

—Helen and Scott Nearing, The Good Life

The twentieth century will be remembered chiefly, not as an age of political conflicts and technical inventions, but as an age in which human society dared to think of the health of the whole human race as a practical objective.

—Arnold Toynbee, historian

Life expectancy for Americans born in 1900: 47.8
Life expectancy for Americans born in 1998: 76.7

—Historical Statistics of the United States: Millenial Edition

Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.

—Hippocrates, ancient Greek physician

Medicine is … the entertainment of idle people without occupation who, not knowing what to do with their time, pass it in preserving themselves. If they had the bad luck to be born immortal, they would be the most miserable of beings. A life they would never fear losing would be worthless for them. These people need doctors who threaten them in order to cater to them and who give them every day the only pleasure of which they are susceptible— that of not being dead.

—Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Émile

MEDICINE: When in good health, make fun of it.

—Gustave Flaubert, Dictionary of Received Ideas

Morality for Physicians.—A sick person is a parasite on society. Once one has reached a certain state it is indecent to live any longer. Vegetating on in cowardly dependence on physicians and their methods, once the meaning of life, the right to life has been lost, should be greeted with society’s profound contempt. The physicians, for their part, ought to convey this contempt— not prescriptions, but every day a new dose of disgust at their patient. … Die proudly if it is no longer possible to live proudly. … We have no power to prevent our being born: but we can make up for this mistake— and sometimes it is a mistake. If you do away with yourself then you are doing the most admirable thing there is: it almost earns you the right to live.

—Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

For me, an area of moral clarity is: you’re in front of someone who’s suffering and you have the tools at your disposal to alleviate that suffering or even eradicate it, and you act.

—Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health

Physician, heal thyself: thus you help your patient too. Let his best help be to see with his own eyes the man who makes himself well.

—Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Passage of the Clinton health care plan in any form would be disastrous. It would guarantee an unprecedented federal intrusion into the American economy. Its success would signal the rebirth of centralized welfare-state policy at the very moment that such policy is being perceived as a failure in other areas. And, not least, it would destroy the present breadth and quality of the American health care system, the world’s finest.

—Bill Kristol, editor of Weekly Standard

Scratch a pessimist and you find often a defender of privilege.

—William Beveridge, architect of Britain’s National Health Service

I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived.

—Stephen Hawking, physicist

Law: an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community.

—Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica

The one who is skilled in politics needs to know in some way the things that concern the soul, just as one who is going to cure the eyes must also know about the whole body, and even more so, to the extent that politics is more honorable and elevated than medicine; and the more refined among medical doctors do busy themselves in many ways with knowing about the body. So the one skilled in politics must study the soul, but must study it for the sake of political concerns.

—Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

Health designates a process of adaptation. It is not the result of instinct, but of autonomous and live reaction to an experienced reality. It designates the ability to adapt to changing environments, to growing up and to aging, to healing when damaged, to suffering and to the peaceful expectation of death. Health embraces the future as well, and therefore includes anguish and the inner resource to live with it.

—Ivan Illich, Medical Nemesis

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same, I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.

—Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

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