- - Friday, February 25, 2011

“Primum nil nocere.” First, do no harm. This bedrock principle in medicine is a foreign language to most politicians and, sadly, to some Wisconsin doctors, who have violated their oath and the public trust as they have defrauded Wisconsin taxpayers.

Several University of Wisconsin family physicians donned their sacred white coats and were caught distributing fraudulent “sick notes” free for the asking quite literally by the boxful - I wonder who paid for that printing - to teachers and others who skipped work to engage in political protest at the state Capitol in Madison. Whatever the merits of the teachers’ protest, there’s a word for what these doctors and teachers are perpetrating: fraud.

An army of citizen-journalist bloggers, including Tim Daniels of Left Coast Rebel and Ann Althouse, captured and publicized photographs and video allegedly of publicly funded University of Wisconsin doctors Kathy A. Oriel, James H. Shropshire, Lou Sanner, Hannah M. Keevil, Patrick McKenna and Elizabeth Kvach as they disseminated these fraudulent notes to Wisconsin’s publicly funded teachers so the teachers could have a publicly funded day off.

“I’m a doctor. Need a note?” read one sign held high near Dr. McKenna as he openly defrauded taxpayers. “We see a lot of sore throats from speaking out, sore feet from walking, a lot of people kind of chilly, under stress. We say the best thing you can do is be with a large support group,” said Dr. Sanner in a pathetic rationalization despite video confirmation that neither he nor his colleagues examined any throats or feet before making their diagnoses and issuing doctor’s notes.

Meanwhile, taxpayers and students are paying dearly. According to the Department of Education, two-thirds of Wisconsin public school eighth-graders cannot read at a proficient level. And yet, while the average total compensation of a Milwaukee public school teacher is a staggering $100,005 per year, these entitled teachers demand that taxpayers pay them, quite literally, to agitate for more tax money.

If this degree of financial fraud were perpetrated against health insurance companies, the doctors would face civil and criminal charges. Taxpayers deserve at least as much protection. Concerned Wisconsinites may want to contact the Medical Examining Board at the Department of Regulation and Licensing as well as the University of Wisconsin, which, evidently, has overfunded its family practice department sufficiently to send its staff to political rallies. Finally, medical malpractice carriers certainly recognize the medi- cal-legal liability accepted by these scheming doctors inherent in each of the thousands of new doctor-patient relationships they formed. Wisconsin taxpayers, I suspect, may not think their public university should pay for that liability exposure.

These University of Wisconsin doctors have violated the very core of the Hippocratic Oath: “I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.” Providing blanket diagnoses and treatments without so much as examining a patient is a wild and dangerous departure from the standard of care. These doctors do so, in their own words, to pursue “social activism” rather than patient care.

Dr. Paul Hsieh, co-founder of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine, spots an alarming trend: “[A] new form of medical ethics is being taught in medical schools that tells doctors to place the needs of ‘society’ ahead of individual patients. At best, it forces doctors to juggle the truth and the interests of their patients alongside ‘social’ considerations. At worst, it will give them license to sacrifice their professional integrity (and their patients’ interests) in the name of ‘society.’ “

Americans should brace themselves for more social activism under Obamacare. Dr. Donald Berwick, President Obama’s choice to head Medicare, advocates the alarming notion that “this isolated relationship [between doctor and patient] is no longer tenable” without government intervention. Central planners will decide who is afforded treatment and how much, and their primary concerns will be dedicated to society rather than the patient.

One glaring problem, of course, is that “society” is in the eye of the beholder. The University of Wisconsin’s government doctors ordained that the society of government schoolteachers should be served but the society of Wisconsin private-citizen taxpayers should not. And that is the very essence of Obamacare - under which the powerful and connected can divide America into two camps: those who will find favor and those who will not.

Ordinary Americans who play by the rules and don’t have special political connections deserve to be a part of “society,” too. Thus read one sign displayed by a hardworking American taxpayer on the streets of Madison last weekend: “I would’ve come yesterday, but I had to work.”

Dr. Milton R. Wolf, a Washington Times columnist, is a board-certified diagnostic radiologist and President Obama’s cousin. He blogs at miltonwolf.com.