A small cadre of activist physicians and nurses in Massachusetts has drafted a manifesto to the for-profit healthcare industry that it hopes to publish in a leading medical journal.
The two-page document written by the doctors and nurses asserts that "mounting shadows darken our calling and threaten to transform healing from a covenant into a business contract. Canons of commerce are displacing dictates of healing, trampling our professions' most sacred values."
The manifesto, obtained late last week by MODERN HEALTHCARE, describes various ways in which the profit motive has distorted the relationship between doctor, nurse and patient, and bemoans the dismantling of safety-net hospitals and the rising numbers of uninsured.
The statement further observes that not-for-profit institutions, to stay in business, are being forced to drop activities such as research, teaching and charity care.
Signers of the cover letter attached to the paper include Bernard Lown, M.D., a founder of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War; Steffie Woolhandler, M.D.; and David Himmelstein, M.D.
Woolhandler and Himmelstein recently published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that says, contrary to for-profit hospitals' claims of being more cost efficient, they spend more of their money on administrative costs than do not-for-profit hospitals (March 17, p. 2).
Woolhandler said the draft is "submitted for publication, but we are revising it." She declined to say where it is being considered. The cover letter indicates it is intended for the New England Journal of Medicine, but other sources said the Journal of the American Medical Association may be looking at it.
Meanwhile, the Ad Hoc Committee to Defend Health Care will hold its first meeting May 28 at Harvard Medical School to discuss "an immediate statewide moratorium on for-profit takeovers of hospitals, insurance plans, HMOs, physicians' practices and other healthcare institutions."
The group claims 1,000 physicians and nurses as members.