“Doctored” Event at White House Draws Criticism

by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

Americans concerned about the way the government is handling the current health care reform debate were disappointed to learn that in an attempt to bolster support for the controversial bills, the White House “doctored” yesterday’s Rose Garden event where 150 doctors were given white coats to wear in order to make the scene look more convincing to the public.

According to the New York Post, yesterday’s event featuring more than one hundred doctors was staged in order to buttress claims that physicians support the plans. Invited physicians were asked to bring their white lab coats but apparently some forgot and showed up in suits or dresses. The White House proceeded to find white coats for them to wear and handed them out to doctors who were already seated in the Rose Garden awaiting the president.

“Nobody has more credibility with the American people on this issue than you do,” Obama said while flanked by four white-coated doctors at the podium as he delivered his speech. “When you cut through all the noise and all the distractions that are out there, I think what’s most telling is that some of the people who are most supportive of reform are the very medical professionals who know the health-care system best.”

He went on to thank the doctors for coming, and “for agreeing to fan out across the country and make the case about why this reform effort is so desperately needed.”

However, the facts are causing quite a few cracks in the façade of doctors united behind the president.

For instance, in a video posted at TakeBackMedicine.com, a website sponsored by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), one physician who received an invitation but turned it down decided to speak up.

Dr. Eric Novack said he’s more interested in leading the fight to pass state legislation and constitutional amendments to prohibit individual insurance mandates and wondered why the White House didn’t know about his work opposing the programs.

“They had 16 hours to Google me, but I guess no one bothered,” Dr. Novack told Kathryn Serkes, Director of Policy and Public Affairs for the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) in the interview.

Although it was very tempting to accept the “once-in-a-lifetime” invitation, in the end, Dr. Novack turned it down. But it also made him question whether the doctors who attended were actually supportive of the President, or even understand all of the details of the bills.

“Are these doctors just star-struck, or do they have real knowledge about what they are supporting?” asked Serkes. “It’s looking like another dog-and-pony-show, and doctors should not be used in this shameful manner. First the President vilifies them, now he wants their help.”

“And at the very least, it makes the White House look like it does some very sloppy work,” added Serkes.

The event also drew angry criticism from members of Congress, including Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), an orthopedic surgeon.

“Today, the president wants you to believe that the medical community supports his government takeover of health care. Don’t be fooled,” Rep. Price said.

House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner also criticized the staged event, saying that members of the medical community, who are already dealing with enough bureaucratic red tape every day, recognize that a government takeover of health care  will “weaken the doctor-patient relationship that is so critical to making the right health-care decisions,” he said.

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