The notion of “free healthcare for all” is one that is quite popular today, and is the subject of some spirited debate. However, we usually find that the question is limited to the idea of how much healthcare costs in dollars, and neglects what can be an equally important aspect of “free healthcare”: whether you are free to make your own medical decisions for yourself or your family.
For years, many people were only vaguely aware of the concept of a medical mandate, which is a technical term for a law or government directive that compels a population to be given the same medical treatment or management. Usually the justification for medical mandates is that they are necessary for the greater good.
But what happens when the greater good is at odds with what may be bad for an individual? This results in a fundamental tug-of-war between proponents of personal medical freedom and those who think public health should be our top priority.
While this conflict of interests has created issues for decades, the recent COVID-19 outbreak has brought it abruptly into the mainstream. State and local governments closed schools and businesses in response to the possible dangers presented by the outbreak, and strict guidelines were put in place for public gatherings. Some areas are requiring that face masks be worn in public spaces, while other private businesses are enforcing their own policies regarding masks. There is even discussion in some circles regarding potential vaccines for the virus, and whether everyone should be required by law to be vaccinated.
So what’s the problem?
Well, maybe there isn’t one for some of us. Maybe we find that wearing masks in public is more beneficial than harmful. Maybe it just seems like the right thing to do. Maybe we don’t have a medical condition that makes it difficult or dangerous to breathe through a mask. Maybe we don’t find the possibility of oversanitizing our environment, and potentially weakening our immune systems, to be a credible threat. Maybe we believe vaccination is a positive preventive measure, or at the very least won’t hurt us.
On the other hand, no two people have the same medical history, the same body, the same environmental influences, or even the same beliefs. To further complicate the question, for every researcher and physician who believes a certain medical intervention is appropriate for you, there’s likely to be another who reviews the same information but comes to a different conclusion. This is in part because medical studies often contradict each other, or are influenced by factors other than hard science.
Then what’s the answer?
Unfortunately, there may be no easy answers. This is why we need to expand on our concept of “free healthcare” to include medical freedom. While there will always be some disagreement about where to draw the line between the greater good and the good of the individuality—particularly in a pandemic—we need to consider the potential consequences of allowing the government to dictate individual healthcare decisions.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that the drive to protect our most vulnerable citizens isn’t noble and something to be strongly encouraged. It simply means that we should be aware of how those honorable intentions could lead us down a slippery slope. While it could be viewed as selfish and destructive to refuse something that won’t hurt you but could help others, what happens if you don’t view the risks and benefits to yourself or your children the same way as a faceless government entity does?
I’m sure everything would be fine, though. Right?
It’s very possible. But …
What happens if your unique health history is not considered by a medical mandate, or if the risks to you can’t be clearly defined?
What if you allow your doctor or your government to take control of your healthcare because you believe that the current standard care is reasonable and ideal, and then that standard begins to evolve in a way that you no longer agree with after a few years?
If you let go of your personal medical freedom, there is no guarantee that you won’t want it back later. Unfortunately, you may find that it’s very difficult to reclaim at that point.
So what can I do?
- Investigate. Don’t rely on traditional media to provide accurate or complete reporting of medical issues, as many outlets are influenced by advertising revenue or pressure from external sources. Try to find primary sources such as articles from medical journals or professional reviews, and/or check coverage of medical topics from as many media outlets as possible to see if there are inconsistencies in the way each one is reported.
- Think ahead. Consider all the ways that a medical mandate in any arena could affect you or your family now and in the future. For instance, you may choose to vaccinate your children according to the current recommended schedule and have no objection to a law that makes it mandatory for all parents to do so, but will you feel the same way if the number of vaccines were doubled? Tripled?
- Ask questions. You should feel comfortable to discuss the pros and cons of any medical intervention with your healthcare provider. If you feel that your questions are not welcome, not taken seriously, or not addressed adequately, it may be time to consider moving to a different provider.
If you’d like reliable, research-based, and legally valid information on this important issue, including how medical mandates may affect you, your family, and your community, please explore the following resources:
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