Health Autonomy Reader 6guts.pdf
al scene. Together, they combine to dig the famous ‘social security
hole’, which serves as an argument to justify the deterioration of
medicine for the poor.
To expropriate, nationalize or transform into workers’ cooperatives the branches of the great German, Swiss or American drug
companies is a necessary but insufficient minimum. Their whole
output needs to be monitored, in order to eliminate the thousands
of useless drugs that mendacious publicity, foisted on GPs by travelling salesmen in medical guise, causes us to swallow throughout
the year. It is a specialized task to sift through this vast display and
select what is worth keeping, to determine and divide up the main
lines of research; moreover, it will be necessary to choose carefully
the men and women for the job, bearing in mind the errant ways of
the ‘drug agencies’, which are all contaminated by their incestuous
contacts with the pharmaceutical industry.
The difficulty is perhaps even greater when it comes to medical imaging, since a number of magical beliefs have to be confronted and
dispelled. By placing their spectacular images in medical journals
and the general press, the international corporations that produce
ultrasound, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and other types of
scanner have managed to spread the idea that cross sections of the
human body, if sufficiently precise and targeted, will necessarily
show the origins of what is wrong. This myth has two consequences. On the one hand, it allows thousands of hugely expensive devices to be sold around the world, which then have to be kept going to
make them pay; hence the large component of (mostly pointless)
imaging in the ‘social security hole’. (In France, radiologists — the
name for those who have bought such devices and employ lowpaid, low-status ‘operators’ to handle them — are at the top of the
medical income scale.) On the other hand, the magic of imagery
distracts from good medicine, most of which is practised with
words, eyes, hands and a few simple tools. Without rejecting progress, we might underline what should be evident enough: that it is
both effective and cost-free to register what the patient complains
of, to examine the troubled knee, to palpate the spleen, to listen to
You’re a doctor but you’re also a radical organizer and active
member of the revolutionary autonomy collective Woodbine.
How’d you get into this?
When I was in high school I wanted to be the surgeon for the New
York Mets. I had this grand plan to go to a good college, get into a
good medical school, go to orthopedic surgeon residency, and drive
BMWs by the time I was thirty. Yeah, I guess I fell off that track,
now I ride a 70s Peugeot bicycle to work.
I work in the ER at Bellevue Hospital, I’ll wrap up my residency in
July. But, I came to medicine circuitously; I was a chubby kid and
I broke my arm a lot. The last time I broke my arm I told myself
I’d be a doctor so I could fix it and not go to the ER anymore. It’s
funny, but it got me on this track.
In college, I learned about structural violence, structural oppression, and got into international politics. I still wanted to be a doctor,
but I moved to emergency medicine because it’s skill based. I wanted to have something to offer a large movement. Most practices are
somewhat theoretical and highly dependent on hospital infrastructure. ER medicine is dependent upon ER infrastructure, but it also
offers more procedural based learning like suturing, splinting, and
dealing with trauma.
I remember thinking when the revolution happens in some Latin American country, I’ll speak Spanish and I’ll go [there] to be
the doctor. In ER medicine, we learn a little about everything so I
could deliver a baby, suture an arm, and deal with a chest wound.
I thought future struggles would include both acute injuries from
gunshots or bombs and sub-acute chronic diseases. I wanted to be
like the Che of that country or something. It was a good illusion
because it allowed me to have radical beliefs without having to do
After that, I worked in California for a bit and then finally went