The easy chair — From the January 1951 issue

Letter to a Family Doctor

Dear Doctor Jay: My check for $14.45 accompanies this letter. I have taken two deductions from the $15 for which you billed me. The first one, thirty cents, is the 2 per cent for current payment customary in commercial transactions; business ethics, I gather, now govern our relationship. I will explain the remaining twenty-five cents in a moment.

I fully understand why you have been forced to raise your fee for house calls from $10 to $15, though I am not able to adjust my own professional fees so readily to the rise in living costs. I am still being paid for the Easy Chair just what I was getting in June 1946 when I wrote a piece attacking the anti-vivisectionists for which you and about a thousand other medical men wrote me letters of approval. (Many of them phrased so similarly as to suggest that someone had sent out word to give me a hand.) Still, though my income is not large enough to enable me to pay for my children’s education this year without dipping into savings, I realize that it is large enough to put me, statistically, in the topmost 5 per cent of Americans. I am therefore glad to send you the $15, less deductions, as payment for your treatment of my son’s cold plus my share of your treatment of others who cannot afford your full fee or perhaps any of it. The 95 percent of my fellow-countrymen who are less able than I to afford medical treatment thrust themselves on my attention. I will help American medicine take care of them — as long as I can.

I do not know how long that will be. This month the hospital to whose staff you belong asked me to contribute to its endowment drive. The last time it did so I sent what was for me a thumping big check, much larger than I could really afford. I would be glad to contribute now, all the more glad because of the magnificent care I received during the three weeks I spent there last April. But this year I cannot afford to give the hospital a dime. One reason, besides taxes and the inflation, is that the cost of those three weeks, the fee of the surgeon who operated on me, and the loss of income while I was convalescing used up all my margin. The chairman of the drive tells me that it is going to fall far short of its goal; many people on whom it could once depend for contributions can no longer afford them. He, you, and I all know how grave a danger this is to the hospital, to your profession, and to the public. Who is going to pay the hospital’s deficits and who is going to support its medical research now that we of the middle class no longer can? I understand your trade association, the AMA, to say that though it cannot answer that question it will not permit the government to pay for them.

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