Letter to the editor: Bethany Allgrove

LD 798 stops all Maine doctors from practicing medicine for individual patients

Posted:  Monday, March 25, 2019 - 9:30am

Have you ever thought about the phrase “practice medicine”? Since 1542, the word “practice” has been used with the meaning, “to perform or exercise repeatedly or regularly in order to acquire, improve or maintain proficiency”.   

The thought of “practicing medicine” struck me this morning as I was beginning my daily yoga practice. I love yoga. All of my friends will tell you that I am always encouraging them to join me for a class. “But I’m not good at yoga” is a common reply and my response is always the same; “It is called ‘practicing yoga’ for a reason!” We all work on our own practice in each class; there is no need or pressure to have your practice look like anyone else’s today or any day. 

Kathryn Montgomery, author of the book, How Doctors Think: Clinical Judgment and the Practice of Medicine, describes the common position of medical professionals today as: “unharmonious hodgepodges of science, experience, gut feeling, and a host of social circumstances unrelated to medicine.” Experience, gut feeling and social circumstances are unique to the individual practicing medicine and will result in individual recommendations and outcomes for those being practiced on.

LD 798, a Bill to repeal all non-medical exemptions in Maine, has a “one size fits all” approach to vaccines that does not acknowledge the innate practice of medicine or even the biological variability of human beings and of disease. Instead, this Bill seeks to strip the clinical judgment from the medical community that must practice medicine in the absence of having every scientific fact in place. But Medical “facts” will never fill the boundless expanse of human health and human illness. How can Legislation decide the rules of clinical judgment to apply to all of us as if we were one? Do these Legislators have a license to practice medicine in Maine?

It sounds like a great idea to increase vaccination rates among school children. We don’t want our children to get sick and miss school! We want to protect the young and old and those in between that have compromised immune systems! But this approach only considers and segregates a small portion of the population while putting everyone else into the same category without knowing relevant family medical history or notable reactions in the past. 

It is only the individual doctor that has been chosen by each family that will know when the rules don’t apply. Only the medical professional that is utilizing the ever changing collection of science, along with all other components that make up their experience and knowledge, can particularize an observation for each patient as a unique individual.

LD 798 stops all Maine doctors from practicing medicine for individual patients. It allows them only the freedom to follow specific rules that are written without any knowledge of the doctors or individuals, subject to change at any time. LD798 removes the ability and rights of medical professionals to make clinical judgments.

In her book, Montgomery suggests that “science is a tool, rather than the soul of medicine” and medicine “is neither a science nor an art. It is a distinctive, practical endeavor whose particular way of knowing … qualifies it to be that impossible thing, a science of individuals”.

New medicines and studies are always being introduced, thus doctors are always practicing. Our bodies change as we grow and age, thus doctors are always practicing. 

Abyhasa is said to be at the very heart of each yoga practice; a “steady effort in the direction you want to go”. I want my family’s medical professionals to have freedom to utilize their clinical judgment as a steady effort in the direction of the best health for my family. I oppose LD 798 and support LD 987 as a unique individual that can only be treated as such by a true professional that practices the art of medicine.


Bethany Allgrove lives in Lincolnville