Saturday, October 26, 2013
Don't Forget To Leave Behind Your Constitutional Rights When You Pick Up Your Medical Degree
Recently, an order was issued from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Written by Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the department's Health Officer, it imposed on all healthcare providers in the county this edict:
Pursuant to my authority under §120175 of the California Health and Safety Code, I hereby order every licensed acute care hospital, skilled nursing facility, and intermediate care facility within the County of Los Angeles public health jurisdiction to implement a program under which healthcare personnel at such facility receive an annual influenza vaccination for the current season or wear a mask for the duration of the influenza season while in contact with patients or working in patient-care areas.
In other words, get a flu vaccine or wear the scarlet letter equivalent of a mask over your face. There is no leeway or any sort of objection to get around this new rule in L.A. While I am all for preventing the spread of the flu, this seems to blatantly trample on my rights as a citizen of this great United States. Get a flu vaccine or be ostracized at my place of employment? Something doesn't feel right here. Why is it that while parents can legally refuse to have their children vaccinated against childhood illnesses, and thus potentially start an epidemic at my children's school, I have no say in whether I want to get the flu vaccine or not? Shouldn't children who don't get vaccinated as per government recommendations wear a mask at school to keep them from spreading their diseases to other kids? Why isn't the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution being observed?
Besides, the flu vaccine is no panacea in keeping one from getting the flu. Its effectiveness is dependent on the recipient and whether the vaccine actually contains the flu strain that is currently the most widespread. Just because I am forced to get a shot doesn't mean I still won't get the flu.
Of course doctors should be used to being brushed aside and taken for granted by the government by now. New laws and regulations are issued all the time regarding how we should practice our profession. The most brazen of course is the EMTALA law, requiring doctors to treat all patients regardless of ability to pay. While admiral in its purpose, it still places doctors into a professional servitude which the feds wouldn't dare impose on anybody else. Would the government force lawyers to work with a client who couldn't possibly pay their hourly rates? In this litigious society having legal representation is practically a necessity but if you have no money, you are not going to get good representation, or even any representation.
Somehow physicians have come to accept their plight as the cost of doing business. We just roll over while other people make rules for us. I have not heard anyone at the LA County Medical Association object to this ruling. No word from the California Medical Association either. They're too busy throwing parties for themselves to empathize with how doctors well being are being infringed upon by the government.
So I will be trudging to my hospital's employee health department and getting my flu vaccine soon. It doesn't appear that I have a choice. Maybe I should bring a tea bag with me as a sign of my conscientious objector to this travesty of justice.