Doctor Copts out of her oaths

A couple of weeks ago I talked about Dr. Mary Hanna, an anaesthesiologist who had enlisted in the Army in exchange for the Army putting her through medical school. She agreed to serve eight years after the Army paid almost $200,000 for her schooling.

But then, just as it came time to pay the piper, Dr. Hanna had a resurgence of her Coptic Christian faith and realized that she simply could not, in good conscience, help the Army. She was a born-again pacifist, and supporting the military in any way was against her newfound beliefs. The Army guaranteed her that she would not be sent out of the country, but that wasn’t good enough: she wanted to be recognized as a Conscientious Objector and released from her contract and oaths.

Well, she’s won. A federal judge has granted her release from the Army. Judge Nancy Gertner, who seems to be regarded as a liberal activist judge, ruled that the Army had no “basis in fact” to refuse her request. Apparently several review boards, testimony from a Chaplain on the finer nuances of the Coptic faith, actual statements by a Coptic priest, and a psychiatric exam, all of which indicated that her professions were less than sincere (and, coincidentally, happening right around the time her schooling was winding down and her commitment to service — four years on active duty, then four years in the Reserves — were about to kick in.

Dr. Hanna (she is obviously no longer worthy of the rank and title “Captain”), through her lawyer, promises to repay the $184,000 the Army spent on her, plus interest. Gee, how thoughtful of her.

According to this report, the average new doctor emerges with his degree and $90,000 in debts. That means that Dr. Hanna will have to work twice as long as they will to pay off her obligations. Still, that’s pretty damned cheap.

I will repeat my initial position: Dr. Hanna should be required to pay back all — ALL — the expenses the Army spent on her. That was not just a contract, but an investment — and she backed out of the deal after the Army had fulfilled its obligations and before she started fulfilling hers. Further, since her weaseling attack of conscience cost the Army not only the money it invested in her but several years, there ought to be some penalty.

The one I proposed was simple: her debt, with interest, doubled — to reflect the cost of training her replacement as well. And until those debts were repaid, she would be forbidden from accepting any goverment money or assistance whatsoever. No Medicaid. No Medicare. No access to government hospitals. So federal research grants. Not one damned dime from the government whose Army she found so repugnant that she could not bring herself to treat soldiers wounded in service to their nation.

It would have been nice had she discovered her conscience much earlier, before she finished all her education and training, but better late than never. In the meantime, though, let her stand on her principles — and let her learn that such stances come with a price.

She is trying to hide behind Coptic Christianity to escape her solemn oaths, one to the Army to serve and one before Hippocrates to heal. If we can’t have her spending time as inmate/doctor at Leavenworth, then let her get back the same disdain from the government that she expresses towards it.

As a taxpayer who helped pay for her education and training, it’s the very least I want.

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