What is the Benjamin Rush Society?
The Benjamin Rush Society aims to unite medical students, residents, fellows, and doctors across the political spectrum — as well as members of the general public — who believe that the profession of medicine calls its practitioners to serve their patients, rather than the government. We believe that the physician-patient relationship is a voluntary and mutually beneficial one. Both parties have a right to enter this relationship freely. The proper role of government is to protect this freedom, not to diminish it.
The time-honored profession of medicine calls for physicians to serve their patients, not a third party -- and certainly not one that wields the coercive force of law. Doctors should not be required to base decisions on societal utility or the perceived marginal value of life; rather, their decisions should be based freely on the needs and desires of each individual patient. The Hippocratic Oath reads, "I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievious." The Benjamin Rush Society is committed to preserving the freedom to practice in this manner, according to the dictates of conscience and the interests of patients, and none other.
Why is the Benjamin Rush Society Necessary?
The Benjamin Rush Society is necessary because of significant interference by the government in the profession of medicine, in the payments made for physician services, and in the physician-patient relationship. Necessarily, medical schools and the medical profession primarily focus on the skills required to practice, rather than on how external forces will affect the profession. As a result, medical students are often not exposed to much discussion or debate about the role of government in medicine.
The Benjamin Rush Society is committed to furthering discussion on this topic, which will profoundly influence physicians' professional quality of life in the years to come. It is likewise committed to promoting medical students' knowledge and understanding of the core principles and philosophies that underlie our governmental design and which continue to inform our politics today.
The American Founders drew upon centuries of political experience and wisdom to establish a government limited in its scope and radical in its aim: to secure certain unalienable rights. They believed that rights are not given by government but are inherent in human nature. They believed that governments that seek to transcend their proper role in securing natural rights -- which instead seek to coin new rights or to consolidate and centralize power in the interest of promoting some perceived greater good -- will inevitably compromise the very natural rights that just governments are established to secure. While the Founders' aim was to create a government best able to promote human happiness and (to them the same thing) to secure the blessings of liberty, they believed that for government to achieve this goal, it must adhere to a principle strikingly similar to a guiding principle of medicine: first, do no harm.
Who is Benjamin Rush?
Benjamin Rush (December 24, 1745 - April 19, 1813) was an American Founder. He lived in Pennsylvania and was a physician, writer, and educator. He attended the Continental Congress and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Dr. Rush is best known today for his singular role in restoring the friendship between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. He successfully encouraged Adams to write to Jefferson, thereby facilitating their extraordinary correspondence across many years.
He received a B.A. from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), and then studied medicine in Philadelphia under Dr. John Redman. At Dr. Redman's encouragement, Rush attended the University of Edinburgh, where he received his medical degree. Returning to Philadelphia in 1769, he opened a practice and then became a Professor of Chemistry at what is now the University of Pennsylvania. In 1776, he signed the Declaration of Independence as a member of the Continental Congress. The following year, he became the Surgeon General for the Middle Department of the Continental Army. In 1783, he was appointed to the staff of the Pennsylvania Hospital, where he worked until his death in 1813.
In establishing a society for medical students and doctors that is committed to promoting the liberty of the physician-patient relationship, it seemed appropriate to name the society after Benjamin Rush: medical doctor and American Founder.