Doctors who wrote work excuses for protesters in Wisconsin are being accused of violating medical ethics and committing fraud. The media are replete with calls for punishment, from professional discipline, including suspension of medical license, to criminal prosecution. The attack on these doctors is another tactic in the war against workers.
The uprising in Madison, demonstrating the power of solidarity, like the uprisings across the Arab world, threatens the existing capitalist and imperialist order. Governor Walker threatened to fire public employees if they did not leave the protests and return to work. The doctors who wrote those work excuses were taking concrete actions to prevent those struggling for workers’ rights from getting fired.
By helping workers continue in their struggle without deprivation of livelihood, those doctors also were taking concrete actions to prevent workers from losing the right to bargain collectively for health insurance. Because the law Governor Walker aims to force upon the people of Wisconsin also slashes health services to tens of thousands of poor and working people, the actions of those doctors could have profound repercussions for their lives as well.
People all over the U.S. recognize the significance of the struggle in Wisconsin. Thousands of people across the country have engaged in solidarity actions, from joining the protesters in Madison, to marching and rallying in their own states. They see through the cynical ploys of the ruling class to divide the working class by pitting the unionized against the non-unionized, the unemployed against the employed, the impoverished against the so-called middle class. They recognize that the assault on unionized workers is an assault on the entire working class.
The doctors who wrote those work excuses recognize the significance of the struggle in Wisconsin too. They recognize that jobs, shelter, food, education, heat, water, light, and health care are necessary for well-being, even for survival. Their concrete actions to defend the struggle for those necessities of life are the epitome of what it means to be a doctor.
Dr. CATHERINE WILKERSON, MD, is a primary care physician in Michigan.