Sunday, June 30, 2024

The Commodification of American Medicine

"We need to keep some parts of our social, cultural, and spiritual life out of the marketplace. We must not convert all gift labors into market work lest we wake one day to see that universal market in which all our actions earn a wage and all our goods and services bear a price."

So said Lewis Hyde in his highly insightful 1979 book, The Gift. Regarding the field of medicine in America, we have very nearly, or perhaps completely, reached this realm. I hear daily in conversations at the hospital: how can the administration pay us X when clearly we are worth Y? As if the work and care of medicine can be fully translated and digitized into some currency. The attempt of course has led to massive payments to nurses and doctors, which administrators publicly lament over, but then take pains to profit off of, being as they are the top of the doctor-nurse-patient pyramid themselves.  

No, the field of medicine cannot lose its gift component and remain medicine. It becomes only a tit-for-tat exchange, and even a battle, for the human body always carries scarcity, even when well. The sick will consume all commodities and still be wanting. In today's medicine, the sick person desperately longs for gift, for love, for human, for divine. When these are missing, no commodity will suffice. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The healthcare industry, is in fact, an industry. As more physicians become employed by large groups or corporations, the shareholders begin to make decisions and physicians become technicians. And when physicians are paid by production, the patient becomes a commodity to be consumed in a what’s in it for me transaction.