Labour Markets and Health: Letter Sent To Irish Times

Sir,

The letter signed by 16 specialist registrars and higher specialist trainees in obstetrics and gynaecology (October 24th) spoke of senior trainees as ‘valuable strategic assets’ and ‘a sought-after commodity’ in the ‘international medical labour market’.

We are probably used by now to hearing technocrats and politicians, whose concern is the health of the financial system, speaking about people as if they were commodities in a labour market. Their world view has laid waste to public health systems across the world, the latest example being Greece. A New York Times report dated October 24th reported how unemployed people in Greece had lost their right to health care on account of Troika-imposed conditions.

If we speak uncritically about people as commodities in a ‘labour market’, then we take it for granted that there is nothing wrong with reducing human beings, with all their frailty and vulnerability, to the status of tradable commodities such as petrol or tinned food.

It is especially disturbing, then, that medical professionals here should see fit to refer to themselves in such terms.

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