Donald Trump as a health threat- we need a physician statement

Fifty Republican security officials penned an open letter condemning Donald Trump as a security threat. As a physician, I found myself asking, why is there not a similar statement by physician leaders?

Mr. Trump supports a forced expulsion of millions, breaking up families and exposing thousands to the emotional and physical harms of upended social supports; doctors care for victims of trauma, in both mind and body. Mr. Trump normalizes sexual harassment and assault; doctors treat sexual assault victims. Mr. Trump openly discriminates: by religion (Muslim ban), heritage (calls Mexicans rapists), and gender (routinely belittles and bullies female critics). A central tenet of doctors’ work is to nurture the basic dignity of all patients, and to work against the inequalities that compromise wellbeing.

Mr. Trump prefers conspiracy theories to facts, showing no regard for evidence or even thoughtfulness. He is fickle and erratic; doctors dedicate ourselves to building and using scientific evidence to tackle some of the most complex and pressing challenges to society.

Mr. Trump has shown a cold indifference to the sanctity of human life by advocating the killing of terrorists’ innocent families, and by expanding the use of torture, even in cases where it is ineffective. In the post World War II era, the medical community is vocal in denouncing such war crimes and crimes against humanity.

This is a short list of the many ways Mr. Trump undermines the work of medicine and threatens the health and wellbeing of our patients. Why, then, is there no statement by prominent doctors spelling out why they oppose a Donald Trump presidency?

As a profession, medicine enters a social contract, wherein society grants certain autonomy and self-governance to medical doctors (licensing, education, self-censure). In return, doctors are obligated to place the interests of their patients above their own. This arrangement extends beyond doctors’ duty to individual patients to include society as a whole, the public good.

Society asks us to weigh in on matters of the public good that are related to health. The American Medical Association spells out this duty in its Declaration of Professional Responsibility, asking the community of physicians to advocate for “political changes that ameliorate suffering and contribute to human well-being.” We have a duty to speak out.

It is not alarmism to suggest that Mr. Trump’s mass deportation proposal alone, and the health consequences for thousands of children and elderly, would create a humanitarian crisis. It is not overly sensitive to reject a man who minimizes assaultive behavior and espouses bigotry and bullying. And it is not being cynical to call out Mr. Trump as anti-science and anti-intellectual. It is our obligation, as public servants, to make it clear that such policies and behavior have no place in a healthy society.

My colleagues and I have written a statement denouncing Donald Trump as a health threat. We ask physicians to sign it and share it. We hope that our patients understand that the community of doctors remains committed to their dignity and wellbeing, and we hope voters who care about these issues will be informed to make a difference at the polls.

Father, physician, organizer. Optimist. aaron@conjecturemagazine.com Twitter: @astupple

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