Remembering Dr. Quentin Young

Dr. Quentin D. Young, the legendary activist and doctor died on March 7th 2016 at the age of 92. Obituaries appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times , and Chicago Tribune among many other papers. The Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) have collected personal tributes in honor of Dr. Young’s life.
Dr. Young was one of the founders of Medical Committee for Human Rights, an advocate of doctors’ right to organize who, according to the New York Times,” was fired as the chairman of the department of medicine at Cook County Hospital for supporting doctors who demanded bargaining rights and better patient care”, a proponent of single payer health care and personal physician to Dr. Martin Luther King.

Dr Young remains an inspiration for all of us who believe that doctors can be on the front line of social justice movements. His expansive concept of the doctor’s role as an advocate is a model for members of our union- Doctors Council. In a 2003 JAMA communication “Proposal of the Physicians’ Working Group for Single-Payer National Health Insurance“ Dr. Young and his peers described a vision for health care reform that remains as vital today as it was then. We hope to celebrate his life by restating this diagnosis and vision:

“For physicians, the gratifications of healing give way to anger and alienation in a system that treats sick people as commodities and physicians as investors’ tools. In private practice we waste countless hours on billing and bureaucracy. For the uninsured, we avoid procedures, consultations, and costly medications. In HMOs we walk a tightrope between thrift and penuriousness, under the surveillance of bureaucrats who prod us to abdicate allegiance to patients and to avoid the sickest who may be unprofitable. In academia, we watch as the scholarly traditions of openness and collaboration give way to secrecy and assertions of private ownership of vital ideas—the search for knowledge displaced by a search for intellectual property.”
“Four principles shape this vision of reform:
1. Access to comprehensive health care is a human right. It is the responsibility of society, through its government, to ensure this right. Coverage should not be tied to employment.
2. The right to choose and change one’s physician is fundamental to patient autonomy. Patients should be free to seek care from any licensed health care professional.
3. Pursuit of corporate profit and personal fortune have no place in caregiving. They create enormous waste and too often warp clinical decision making.
4. In a democracy, the public should set health policies and budgets. Personal medical decisions must be made by patients with their caregivers, not by corporate or government bureaucrats.”

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