As a child, I was attracted to anything that dealt with medicine. Many stories featured Johns Hopkins Hospital, and eventually I was privileged to spend 36 years at Johns Hopkins working with brilliant and caring colleagues who dedicated their lives to the art and science of healing.
After a storybook career that included thousands of operations and many sleepless nights, I looked forward to retirement, thinking it would be relaxing. However, life throws many curveballs, and sometimes the ordering of our steps is not of our own choosing. I now find myself deeply immersed in trying to heal the health care environment, because if you cure the organism and put it back into a sick environment, you really have not accomplished very much.
Recently, I was giving a speech in Sikeston, Mo., where I had the opportunity to be reacquainted with a 21-year-old man named T.J. He likes to go fishing and play cards with his friends, and to a stranger, he sounds like a pretty regular 20-something. However, T.J. has lived anything but a regular life.
At just 9 months of age, he was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. His mother was told not to expect him to see his second birthday. This is news that no mother should have to hear. After 17 surgeries — seven of which I performed in a relatively short period of time — T.J. was finally out of the woods. Through a combination of providence and the marvels of modern medicine, T.J. survived this ordeal, and it was quite an experience to get to see him and his dedicated family again.
I share this story to help explain why I have decided to become chairman of the Save Our Healthcare Project, which was organized by a group called the American Legacy PAC. Our mission is to lead a national citizens' effort to hold Washington accountable, re-center the health care debate around doctors and patients, and begin the process of replacing Obamacare with patient-centered reforms that will allow every American access to the best, most affordable care in the world. If you would like to join us, please visit SaveOurHealthcare.org.
I believe a nationwide effort such as this is vital. As much as I have been privileged to treat people such as T.J., I am but one person — and both the problems and the solutions to our health care woes are bigger than any one person.
As we move forward, we will seek to underscore two points that have gotten lost in the daily back-and-forth over broken websites, increased premiums and dropped coverage. First, the underlying and unfixable flaw of Obamacare is that it goes against all of the lessons of human history and puts its trust in a centralized bureaucracy instead of free individuals. Second, repealing Obamacare is not an end in itself. Those of us who believe in the Constitution, free enterprise and individual freedom have an absolute responsibility to provide the country with a new and better direction, and that is what we intend to do.
From my experience, I know that nothing is more personal than health care. After all, it's about the health of the people we love and care about. Every step in the direction of centralization is a step away from personalization. I steadfastly believe that no centralized bureaucracy and no politician — Republican or Democrat — should ever get in the way of decisions best made by patients, families and doctors.
While we have strong ties that bind us all together, we are a nation of individuals, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. Each of us has our own needs, and our elected officials must recognize that top-down cookie-cutter solutions simply will not work. Ultimately, they increase costs and decrease freedom of choice.
If such solutions will not work, we must offer ones that will. Every day that the American people are unaware of alternative ideas is a day that Obamacare's roots grow deeper and more permanent.
In direct contrast to the approach of "we have to pass the bill to find out what's in it," which gave us more than 2,700 pages of regulation and confusion, we will work this year to rally the country in a gradual, step-by-step way around a series of positive proposals that people can understand. We will move forward in such a way because I believe ideas matter. I can't begin to thank all of the people who have sent excellent ideas on health care reform.
Those of us who think we can do better than Obamacare cannot hope to win national elections, let alone win a massive policy fight, if we don't first win the argument. The argument about the right path forward for the American health care system is a big argument to win.
I fully expect that as we seek to reform major institutions, I will be attacked by those who disagree. Critics undoubtedly will try to pigeonhole this effort as just another attack on President Obama and his signature legislative achievement. However, this is about much more than Obamacare. It's about helping to ensure that Americans of every background have the opportunity to live longer, happier and more independent lives with more freedom and more choice.
The American people currently are witnessing the failure of centralized government to deliver affordable, quality health care, and there is no better time than this to consider better alternatives. This is a massive undertaking, and it will be tough. But when I look into the eyes of someone such as T.J. in Missouri, I know there are much tougher things to confront in this world.
I also know that if we have courage, then there is hope for a better future.
Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University. To find out more about Ben Carson and to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.