Help stop Idaho’s health-care decline

Readers: The following opinion piece was authored by two prominent Idaho physicians, Dan Zuckerman and Perry Brown. It appeared in the March 12 edition of the Idaho Press. It is one of the best pieces I’ve seen regarding the tremendous damage our Legislature is inflicting upon the healthcare system in Idaho. I’m not acquainted with Dr. Brown, but I know Dr. Zuckerman to be an accomplished oncologist. we met in January 2017, just after I’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Thanks to his competent treatment, I’ve been cured. He and Dr. Brown speak the truth.

                         Guest Commentary: Help stop state’s health-care decline

Idaho currently ranks 50th out of the 50 states in pediatricians per 100,000 children, and is getting worse. We were at 52 per 100,000 children in 2020, 45 in 2021, and 39 in 2022. The national average is 90.

Idaho also ranked 50th in total active physicians (all specialties) per 100,000 residents at 196.1 in 2021. The national average was 287. Oregon had 311.

This is why wait times to get into a physician are often so prolonged here.

Our Idaho Legislature continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for providing medical care that is widely considered the nationally recommended standard of care. These have recently included mRNA injections, gender affirming care, and pregnancy termination. Physicians, for providing standard of care, can be criminally prosecuted, put in jail, and/or severely fined. Our legislature is forcing physicians to provide substandard and inadequate medical care to Idahoans. This is pushing physicians to leave Idaho, and making recruitment of new physicians to Idaho very challenging.

Additionally, medical research and progress will be blocked. mRNA and other genetic therapies for cancer and cystic fibrosis are extremely promising new treatments that could revolutionize care for Idahoans with these and other terrible diseases. There is no rational reason to prevent these therapies and to punish physicians for providing this novel care. If outlawed, research and/or treatment using mRNA or other genetically-based techniques will not be available for Idaho’s citizens, resulting in unnecessary and increased suffering and death.

As Idahoans, we take pride in our libertarian heritage — keeping the government out of our personal business. Instead, this Legislature is doing the exact opposite, by invading and controlling one of the most sacred settings — the medical exam room, including your physician-patient relationship, and your medical decisions for your (or your child’s) body and wellbeing. Make no mistake, we as Idaho citizens are having our liberties and freedoms slowly stripped away by our state legislators, as Idaho physicians are prevented from offering all options of medical care for you and your family members, and you are being restricted in your choices for your care.

The Idaho Legislature increasingly seems to be borrowing from the playbook of authoritarian regimes, by going after and criminalizing professionals (currently physicians, university professors, and school teachers) for doing their jobs correctly, and by gradually eroding away our individual freedoms and liberties. We have seen this happen repeatedly over the last 80 years in places like Cambodia, China, Russia, the Congo, Iran. We certainly do not want a similar experience here.

If all of this doesn’t worry you, it should. It does worry the great majority of Idaho’s physicians, and it certainly worries every physician who considers a potential job in Idaho. As a result, Idaho has become the hardest state in the country in which to recruit new physicians. And Idaho is on track to become a desert for medical care. Imagine, in 10 years, having to go out of state to receive basic and emergency medical care, instead of being able to obtain such care within or near your community.

We have to demand that our Legislature stop criminalizing physicians for providing widely accepted and recommended, standard of care medicine, and stop invading our citizens’ privacy and decision-making when it comes to our own health care.

If you value your access to physicians and your freedom to decide your medical care, please contact your state legislators with this clear demand. And please vote accordingly.

Perry Brown is a board-certified pediatrician and cystic fibrosis specialist in Boise. Dan Zuckerman is a board-certified medical oncologist in Boise.

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