• U.S.

Medicine: National Health Program

2 minute read

Last summer Congress appropriated $1,500,000 for a campaign against cancer (TIME, Aug. 16). Last week the Senate Commerce Committee decided that the Government ought to spend $9,000,000 in the next two years to bring syphilis under control. The American Medical Association, whose members mortally hate all governmental control of a doctor’s relations with his patients, viewed these tactics with alarm.

An even bigger & blacker portent, in A. M. A. eyes, was the recommendation which Surgeon General Parran’s former superior in the Treasury Department, Sociologist Josephine Roche, last week made to the President: that his Administration finance a “national health program.” She wants Congress to appropriate money to fight tuberculosis, pneumonia, diabetes, malaria, the chronic diseases of middle life (e. g., heart and kidney troubles), the diseases which kill infants and parturient mothers. Concretely, she wants the Government to build 500 hospitals in places which lack them.

Reasoned Miss Roche: “The poor have much sickness; sickness brings poverty. This circular relation brings anti-social results. The people who are involved in the vicious circle are trapped; they cannot raise themselves out of it by their bootstraps. Only society, which pays a heavy price for this continuing situation, can intervene and bring relief.”

Vexed at this reasoning, the spokesman for the A. M. A., Dr. Morris Fishbein, instantly rapped back at Miss Roche: “It is just as true that unemployment and dependency cause illness, as it is true that illness causes unemployment and dependency. … Is it conceivable that one half of the people of the nation are to be cared for always on a charity basis or is there hope that economic conditions may change so that people will again be able to assume the responsibility of some of their medical care?”

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