Health Autonomy Reader 6guts.pdf
to medical school in Boston. It was there, while still involved in
international health work, that I realized how ridiculous that idea
was, how selfish it is to think someone else in some other country is
going to start an uprising and I’m going to help. I began questioning myself, like, why am I not trying to foment that here?
Toward the end of medical school, I still had some idealism about
changing medicine from within and I did some programs to teach
other med students about radical thought and structural violence.
I got fed up with that, though. I began to see doctors as a class, that
we’re too far gone or too brainwashed by that point to change. I
realized the institution itself is the problem.
Through Occupy, I came to New York City in search of a community to build the structures for a revolutionary life, who could ask
what that would look like here in the US. For two years, I went
to every meeting I could – every socialist group, anarchist group,
and communist group – and of course I got burnt out. Around the
climate march, I was fed up with the movement, or that our end
goal was just to march. After all the meetings, it just felt pointless.
I question the strategy and it takes up so much energy. Sure, it can
help others get into things and it is worth it sometimes, but I don’t
know how much effort we should put into it. You have to ask, is this
After the climate march, I found Woodbine through an event and
felt it was the group I could ask these questions with. For me, it
provides the material ground seeds of ideas need to grow, to begin
building the worlds of the revolution.
What does it mean to you as a doctor to have a radical perspective?
For one thing, I still view being a doctor in the sense of what can
it do for others. I mean, the history of doctors is already radical.
issues. They were impossible to solve under democratic capitalism,
because it was said that the necessary funds were not available. But
everything will change as soon as health has ceased to be a major
focus of profit-making and the running of things is entrusted to
those who have chosen to work there. This is not a naive fantasy.
After the Cuban revolution, medicine in that country became the
best in Latin America and infant mortality fell to the level of the
industrial countries — all without any noteworthy injection of cash.
Let us go further. If the hospital is no longer considered an enterprise, if it is returned to its original purpose as a tool for the
community, really major changes are perfectly conceivable. It will
be possible to get rid of various parasitic jobs in specialized budgeting, the checking of standards, and the monitoring of profitability.
Medical and nursing personnel will be relieved of the administrative tasks that have weighed on them for the past twenty years.
Management will be in the hands of a small team of doctors and
nurses that is renewed once a year — a part of the hospital staff
previously confined to subaltern roles, but which knows better
than anyone what needs to be done to provide the best care. The
hospital will fight against the division of labour, by involving all
the staff in non-noble’ tasks such as cleaning, sterilization and the
wheeling around of patients, and by making it easier for individuals
to develop their careers and to move from caring to medical jobs.
This cultural revolution will take place with the support of the local
population, which will be pleasantly surprised to find itself welcomed through the doors and not shunted into despairing queues.
One might even hope that the hospital will one day cease to be the
fortified place where the populace is medicalized, that it will spread
around it the delicate art of identifying pain and treating one’s own
and other people’s ailments: the caring mission it has monopolized
for so long.
But today, wherever democratic capitalism holds sway, public
health is being eaten away by a kind of cancer that cannot be treated locally: that is, the pharmaceutical and medical imaging industries, two of the most prosperous and aggressive on the internation71