Politico reports that a subcommittee hearing on how to reduce emergency room use took "an odd turn" Wednesday when Kentucky's Sen. Rand Paul equated the "right to health care" with slavery.
"With regard to the idea whether or not you have a right to health care you have to realize what that implies. I am a physician. You have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery. You are going to enslave not only me but the janitor at my hospital, the person who cleans my office, the assistants, the nurses. ... You are basically saying you believe in slavery," said our freshman senator, who practices ophthalmology in Bowling Green.
Paul asserted that expanding federally funded community health centers to ensure that everyone had a "right" to care would be unconstitutional and enslave doctors. He said doctors should care for patients out of their own moral code.
"Our founding documents said you have a right to pursue happiness, but there's no guarantee about physical comfort. When you say you have a 'right' to something there is an implication of force. ... I will always treat people who come into the ER because that is what we always have done and because I believe in the Hippocratic Oath."
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Where to begin?
At the risk of offending readers' intelligence, let's just say that people who are paid to do a job they freely chose and are free to leave are not slaves.
Imagine a country in which everyone has access to preventive medicine. The image that comes to most minds is not a mob slapping a doctor in leg irons and forcing him to perform eye exams.
The meandering of Paul's mind is a source of endless fascination. His rant against freedom-stealing low-flow toilets at a committee meeting in March generated lots of potty humor. For a while, he was toying with a run for president.
But, seriously, folks, Paul represents almost 700,000 people, nearly one in six Kentuckians, who have no health insurance at all.
Kentucky is a leader in disease, disability and premature death. A senator who offers practical, down-to-earth ideas about health care challenges would be far more useful to the state and nation.
But since Paul pricked this philosophical thread, let's follow it: If the right to health care would enslave doctors, what does the right to elect our Congress do to senators?
Here's a thought, voters: Free Rand Paul.