Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Electoral musings

Although this is not a political blog, I figure that election night in DC deserves some sort of commentary. In the past, medicine and the country’s electoral process have had an uneasy relationship. In 2004, we heard about election workers visiting nursing homes and helping demented patients to absentee vote. As illustrated by that case, much of the tension between medicine and our electoral process seems to concern the voting rights of people whose diseases hinder their ability to vote intelligently. As doctors we declare patients incompetent to make medical decisions, but what about making political decisions? Should you have to be able to communicate, for example, the country in which you live, in order to receive the right to vote? It would be an interesting study to find out at what level of orientation people forget their political party affiliations. Is it before or after you forget how old you are? Before or after you forget your spouse’s name? These are uncomfortable questions, but we’re one of the oldest democratic countries in the world, and we teach other countries how to hold free and fair elections. Shouldn’t we have some answers?

My personal concern is that some election night I’m going to be stuck in the hospital on a 30 hour call shift, not having had the chance to vote. I wonder how many hospitals provide absentee ballots for their residents and patients. I sense a possible political scheme here – politically savvy chief residents arranging call schedules to disenfranchise residents of the opposite political persuasion. The West Wing meets Grey’s Anatomy?