It seemed an ideal partnership: Three of America’s most powerful companies were teaming up with one of its most celebrated physician writers to topple a health care system with out-of-control costs and mediocre patient outcomes.
But two years later, Atul Gawande is leaving the CEO role at Haven, the venture formed by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan Chase & Co.
For all the fanfare, Haven has not made a dent in the dysfunction of U.S. health care, or publicized any results from the few initiatives it has under way. And now Gawande’s departure, first reported in the Wall Street Journal, threatens to derail a company still in its infancy.
To quote the great philosopher, Yoda, “Never underestimate the power of the dark side of the Force.”
I entered medical school in 1966, with untarnished ideals of service to my fellow man, devotion to the precepts of a scientific and humanitarian profession dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and the application of knowledge, skill and unflagging effort to the health and well-being of society both at large and in the particular. Unfortunately, medicine has evolved from a noble profession to a particularly perverted and substantially self-serving industry, largely run by enormous corporate entities for the benefit of a class of grotesquely overpaid, self-serving and morally bankrupt managerial bureaucracies and their overlords.
I knew Dr. Gawande, albeit rather tangentially, when we were both at a large Boston/Harvard teaching hospital, and those contacts impressed me with his intellect and humane professionalism. I am confident that the apparent failure of this enterprise does not reflect his intellectual or moral corruption. Rather, I suspect that this idealistic venture ran afoul of the ugly realities of the marketplace. Unfortunately, “success” in medicine is increasingly unrelated to doing good in the world in light of the moral principles that place the welfare of the patient and the community as the first, last and only values. I suspect that this failure is but a reflection of the general victory of greed and self-interest as the guiding principles of an ever-increasing domination of our society at large. Perhaps our current plague will lead to some sort of positive transformation of our national ethos, but I am not holding my breath.
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