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What is Health Freedom?

… and Why Is It Important For You?

by Peter M. McCarthy

“… you have likely elected to address your particular health concerns via natural means … and the use of dietary supplements … you are exercising a fundamental human right …to take care of your body the way you believe serves it best. But what if that right was taken away?”

By way of introduction, in addition to being an author and a traditional naturopath, I am also the chair of the Texas Health Freedom Coalition, the nation’s largest state level natural health advocacy group.  For the last several years our group, comprised of over 50,000 members, has been in the forefront of the struggle to protect and advance health freedom of choice in Texas and around the country.

What exactly do I mean by “health freedom of choice,” and why is that important to you?  If you are reading these words, you have likely elected to address your particular health concerns via natural means, primarily through diet and lifestyle changes and the use of dietary supplements to fill the gaps in your nutritional status.  By so doing, you are exercising a fundamental human right, the right to bodily integrity, to take care of your body the way you believe serves it best.

But what if that right was taken away?  What if, instead of having the right to choose your own form of health care, it was dictated to you?  Unfortunately, powerful, moneyed special interest groups in this country are determined to do exactly that.  For primarily economic reasons, what I call the medical/pharmaceutical/insurance complex (the combination of interests of the medical establishment, the pharmaceutical companies and the health insurance establishment) is actively working to eliminate your right to choose how you take care of your health.

As I clearly explain in Adrenaline Nation, we do not have a health care system in this country; we have a disease management system, driven by the financial interests of the medical/pharmaceutical/insurance complex.  It does not serve the interests of this complex if you are empowered to make your own choices about your health; it costs them money if you don’t use their disease management services.  By denying you access to the tools you currently use and, equally important, by dictating to you what tools you may use in the future, they want to force you to accept their definition of what constitutes “health care.”

The consequences to you, the health care consumer, could not be greater, and there is clear evidence to support what I am telling you.  As you are reading this, the citizens of almost the entire European Union can only obtain therapeutic doses of vitamins and minerals through a prescription from a medical doctor, while you can buy them whenever you wish from any health food store.  The cost of those dietary supplements in Europe is up to eight times more than we pay for them here in the U.S.  Think about that for a minute; let’s say your bottle of multivitamins now costs $20 a month.  How willing would you be to pay $160 for the same product, plus the cost of a doctor’s visit to, in effect, get permission to buy them? And how likely do you think that medical doctor, who typically has little or no training in the use of natural products, would be willing to write you the prescription in the first place?

If this situation is allowed to occur in the United States, the practical effect would be catastrophic to our freedom, and our individual and collective health.  The large number of natural products manufacturers who currently manufacture high quality natural products would be driven out of business.  The pharmaceutical companies would move in, as they are already maneuvering to do, and fill the gap by replacing inexpensive natural products with expensive, synthetic, patentable products designed for maximum profit, and delivering minimal health benefit.  As has already occurred in Europe, dietary supplements by the hundreds would disappear from the shelves of grocery and health food stores and from the inventories of online distributors, destroying the $20 billion US natural products industry in the process.  Since most medical doctors are not adequately trained in the use of natural products, the consumer would receive little or no information about them from the medical community.

But most important, you would be denied the freedom to choose those products, instead being coerced into using whatever the medical/pharmaceutical/insurance complex, in their collective arrogance and elitism, thinks is best, primarily for their corporate balance sheets, and secondarily for your health.  Self-help in the area of health care would all but disappear, replaced by a coercive, paternalistic system that strips empowerment from the individual.  Our health care system would become the fulfillment of the adage: whoever controls your health care controls you.

As a military veteran, I spent over 24 years in the service of my country sworn to support, protect and defend my fellow citizens and the Constitution of the United States, which is supposed to guarantee our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  I don’t know about you, but it angers me that anybody would have the arrogance to try to coerce me, or any of my fellow Americans, into giving up one of our most fundamental rights.  It’s why I got involved in the natural health advocacy movement over seven years ago.  I didn’t spend almost a quarter century of my life in the service of my beloved country to allow organizations like these to undermine the very principles upon which this country was founded, all in the name of greed and power.

It is why I, and many thousands more of our fellow Americans, have chosen to stand up to these special interests and protect these precious rights.  Today, as I write this, I sit up the road from a structure in downtown San Antonio, Texas that epitomizes what the health freedom movement is all about.

There, in 1836, in a small mission chapel called the Alamo, a group of 186 souls from over a dozen nations stood valiantly against a military force almost 40 times its own size.  They did so in large part because they remembered and took to heart the words penned in another town, far away, in 1776. Those words, endorsed in writing by just 55 brave men, at the risk of their very lives, read in part “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”  The men were those of the American Revolution; the words are from the Declaration of Independence.

Today, we stand on the threshold of a sea change in the nation’s health care system.  Arrayed in opposition to our movement are powerful forces, fueled by the money of equally powerful special interests.  Some skeptics would say that the fight is over before it has begun, that we have neither the resources nor the manpower to be successful.  I would remind them of those same 55 men, with names like John Hancock, Samuel and John Adams, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, and Benjamin Harrison.  Together, they stood before what was then considered the strongest nation on the planet.

No rational outside observer expected them to prevail.  The results of their efforts are reflected in the fact that you are reading these words today, in the comfort of your home or office, enjoying the freedom earned by those 55 men and their comrades, and fought for to the death by those 186 others at the Alamo.

The women and men who lead the health freedom movement, at the state, national and international level, are committed to the protection of our collective freedom to choose.  The intensity of that commitment is reflected in part by the words in the final sentence of the Declaration: “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Health freedom of choice is good for this nation.  It helps us start to take back the rights and powers that belong to us as free citizens and that have been for too long usurped by moneyed special interests.  Your health freedom leaders are standing up for and defending those rights.  We ask that you join us.

In my book Adrenaline Nation, I explain why health freedom of choice is a crucial component of any American’s ability to effectively deal with the single most pervasive and detrimental health challenge in our society: chronic stress.  In upcoming blog posts, I will offer not only personal prescriptive advice on alleviating your stress, but also what we can do together at the societal level to protect our health freedom, thereby helping to make your personal efforts at stress management more effective.  Stay tuned!

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