Americans Had Better Prepare for the Consequences of a Public Option

A duty owed to all is a duty owed to none.

By + More

Bradley A. Blakeman was deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004.

Many years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States determined that when government undertakes to provide "public duties" for the benefit of all its citizens, the government couldn't be held liable for a breach of that duty.

This finding has become known as the "public-duty doctrine" and it specifically shields the government from liability for the failure to provide services to individual citizens.

This is a very important distinction that should be considered as Congress debates the "public option" that the left is advocating in its healthcare reforms. Should Congress and the president create a Federal Health Care System for all Americans, then citizens will likely be prevented from legal recourse for the government's failure to provide such services. Injured persons would be prevented from suing a public officer for the failure of a public duty owed to the general public. The effect of such immunity clearly shields those who have engaged in negligent activity.

Some of the likely results of a national healthcare system could be the following:

Doctors and other government healthcare providers under the National Health Care System shall not be deemed to be making any promise, or undertaking any special duty, toward any person for such services, or any level of service, or provide, such services that would be deemed to create a special relationship or duty toward any person, upon which an action in negligence or other tort might be found.

In addition, the government will surely list a whole host of disclaimers in the federal healthcare services they will provide, to wit:

1. The failure to treat, or to undertake tests, procedures, or the like, or to maintain any particular level of personnel, equipment, or facilities shall not be deemed a breach of duty to persons utilizing federal healthcare services.

2. When a national healthcare provider does undertake to treat an individual, the failure to provide the same manner of service, or allocation of resources as may or could be provided, shall not be deemed a breach of any duty to persons affected by such medical treatment.

3. A national healthcare provider shall not have to assume any duty toward any person to adopt, use, or avoid any particular strategy, treatment, or tactic in providing healthcare services.

4. The federal government, in undertaking national healthcare services, shall not have voluntarily assumed any special duty with respect to any risks that might have existed even in the absence of such duty, response, or treatment, nor shall any person have a right to rely on any such assumption of duty.

Are the American people willing to cut off their rights to hold those accountable that provide substandard, negligent, or no healthcare at all?

If the federal government were to institute a nationally mandated healthcare system, then Americans had better be prepared to surrender certain rights and privileges they currently enjoy under privately purchased health insurance. Because a duty owed to all is a duty owed to none.