Monday, September 24, 2012

The developing Vison of Primary Care in the Big Rock candy Mountain

Probably the primary care physicians in training who authored a recent commentary in the NEJM describing their view of what primary care should be may will have to google the candy mountain reference in the title or just look here.

KA Barnes,J. Kroening-Roche and BW Comfort wrote a perspective piece in the Sept 6 201212 issue of the NEJM.

In it they describe their vision of primary medical care in the U.S. I will not quote their description of what they hope primary care will be but I will quote a sentence that is the essence of what I believe to be a bogus concept.

"Primary care cannot be primary without the recognition that it is communities that experience health and sickness."

Their description of a typical day a primary care practice can be dismissed as idealistic and naive or wishful thinking as in lemon aid springs of the Big Rock Candy Mountain ( at least to an increasingly curmudgeonly old retired doc) but the quoted sentence expresses a conceptual error.

No, communities do not experience anything;nor do they choose anything nor do they suffer or rejoice. Only sentient beings can do any of those things and communities are an abstraction . Similar terms ( society,the country, etc) can be useful summary ways of thinking and talking- a useful short hand. To say that a community is ill or well is a figure of speech;to say that Mr. Brown is sick is an empirical fact. Mr.Brown can regret his earlier excessive use of alcohol, to say the community regrets anything is a category error.

This is not to deny that there are economic factors and social factors that might impact someone's health but to the degree that such things happen they impact the health of individual real life people not society and not a community.Government programs can improve the health of individuals, with such thins as immunization campaigns and providing health care to the indigent.But it is not the community whose health improves it is the individuals who can benefit.

Society or communities are not some super being or entity apart from the individuals who comprise it. To consider that they are or to reify this abstraction lays the foundation for consideration of weighing the value of the individual against this mythical creature and presto we have the new medical ethics.

Reification refers to the treating of an abstraction as if it were a concrete real thing or an actual physical entity.In short turning an idea into a thing and treating it as if the idea posses the attributes on an actual being.

It is the public health paradigm taking over clinical medicine. I hope that when I get older and ill that the physician I consult will realize that I am her patient and not the community in which I reside.

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