Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Response to Drazen

Has the Court Been Practicing Medicine?

In a recent editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Drazen chastises the Supreme Court for meddling in affairs which he believes should be discussed and decided by "informed and knowledgeable people who are acting in the best interests of a specific patient" and not by blanket rules created by government and regulated by the courts.

Dr. Drazen points out the "disastrous consequences of congressional interference in the case of Terry Schiavo" (namely, that Schiavo's death may have been delayed) and bemoans the Supreme Court's decision in Gonzalez v. Carhart as an unfortunate foray by the courts into the realm of medical practice.

A careful examination of the Court's decision, however, reveals that it did take into account the physician's discretion and the best interests of the individual patient. The Court merely upheld a congressional ruling that once the head or at least half the body of a baby has been delivered, it too is a patient whose best interests the physician must also have in mind. The Court is not telling doctors how to practice medicine; it is performing its duty as set forth in the Constitution, to interpret the law and promote the general welfare.

While it would be unfortunate if this decision became a precedent for more intrusive invasions of government into medical practice, this decision seems confined to a very specific interest in preserving the life of our country's newest citizens. Doctors' practice of medicine remains, as of this ruling, outside the scope of judicial interference.