Gratitude Versus Resentment

 Posted by on 18 October 2012 at 10:00 am  Altruism, Ethics, Medicine, Psychology
Oct 182012

Here’s an interesting thought, from a post on Kevin MD on supposedly “greedy” doctors:

The extent to which the value of a service to an individual approaches infinity (such as a human life saved), is the extent to which a person expects it to be provided to them for free. Any charge for this infinitely valuable service will not be considered a very fortunate undercharge. Instead, the extent to which there is any charge at all for the infinitely valuable service, is the extent to which the receiver of the service will harbor undue resentment toward whomever profited any amount from providing it.

Undoubtedly, altruism begets such resentment. (Altruism is the view that each person’s highest moral duty is to serve others.) The altruist patient resents that the doctor “takes advantage” of him by saving his life, then requiring payment for services rendered. Given his great need, the doctor should have saved his life without demanding payment, according to the altruist patient. The doctor’s bill is, on this view, morally wrong.

In contrast, the rational egoist experiences gratitude in such circumstances. (Egoism holds that each person’s own life and happiness are his highest moral purpose.) He knows that the doctor saved his life — and payment is the least that he can offer in return. The egoist recognizes that the doctor is his own man, and that neither of them has a claim on the life or time of the other.

Which kind of person would you like to be?

P.S. Did you recognize our old friend the troll Johnny Blaze?

P.P.S. Paul has some comments on this article on We Stand FIRM.

  • johnathan blaze

    I am Johnathan Blaze, the author of the comment that sparked this essay. Please allow me to retort.

    1. It seems that my comment touched a nerve. For the author to respond like he has, he has implicity acknowledged that there is truth in my words. I think most doctors know they are overpaid but have convinced themselves that they’re entitled to such absurd sums of money.

    2. The author seems to think this entire argument revolves around the value of a life. But this is just misdirection. It’s not about the value of the end-result. It’s about how much time, skill, and effort is taken to provide that value. That is what payment compensates — the labor, NOT the results of the labor.

    The author attempts to argue that if one is willing to pay $15,000 for a boob job, surely that person should pay the same for their saved life. But once again, this argument doesn’t work because of the imbalance of labor involved between the former and the latter.

    A boob job requires infinitely more time, skill, and effort than an intubation & defibriliation. Boob jobs take hours of preparation and surgery. How long does an intubation & defib take? A couple minutes, max? Boob jobs require a whole lot of skill and experience. But lets face it, emergency intubations are relatively quick & simple procedures and could easily be taught to performed by lower paid people, such as nurses. Ditto w/ the defib. None of this is really that hard or specialized.

    So the ER doc gets paid for $357 for about 3-5 MINUTES of labor. Think about that. ~$100 a MINUTE. That is ABSURD. Then the doctor then has lots MORE time to find MORE things to bill for and extract even more money.

    Once again, the patient is paying for the doctor’s time, skill, and effort. The doctor is nothing more than a technician. As someone else has argued, the guys on the assembly floor of the defibrilator factory are “saving lives” just as much as the doctor. Without his tools, the doctor technician is useless.

    3. I know ER doctors. They work for like 10 days a month and pull 300k. Yeah, lets cry for the poor ER docs.

    Our healthcare system is a complete sham that puts absurd amounts of money into the hands of doctors. This is because of corrupt medical lobbying groups that keep Medicare reimbursements artificially inflated and aim to limit the supply of doctors. In the end, it’s all about extracting the most amount of money for the smallest amount of effort.

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