The Plague of Entitlement

By Greg Baer M.D.

May 25, 2016

Many hospitals are experiencing a 300+% increase in drug overdoses just in the past two years. Why the sudden change? Because the Affordable Care Act has tied considerable hospital funding to Patient Satisfaction Surveys, and one question that patients answer is, “Was your pain controlled adequately?” Doctors know that if patients don’t get the pain pills they want, their satisfaction surveys could adversely affect hospital funding, so many of these doctors prescribe more potent pain killers than might be medically necessary. This increased prescribing is causing increasing drug addiction and drug overdoses.

In short, the patients are feeling empowered by the government policy and therefore entitled to the drugs they demand. The result of the entitlement? Last year there were 47,000 deaths from drug overdose, compared with 10,000 alcohol-related auto accidents and 11,000 homicides with guns.

This is just one sign of the plague of entitlement that is spreading throughout societies all over the world.

In a great many colleges and universities, faculty members are often retained or dismissed because of evaluations of their teaching made by the students. Philip B. Stark, chair of the statistics department at the University of California at Berkeley, has found that such evaluations are little more than popularity contests, so that good professors often get bad ratings, and bad professors often get good ones. Teachers have resorted to bringing cookies and other treats to class, learning to be more humorous, and—worst of all—lowering the standards of academic performance. Teachers let students hand in papers late, retake exams when the results are bad, do extra credit projects, and make tests easy, so that students receive inflated grades.

Students are using the power of evaluation to nourish their sense of entitlement to easy schooling and good grades.

I have spoken to hundreds of priests and ministers, and it is now the accepted standard that a minister must preach to the congregation a message that they LIKE, not necessarily what they NEED. In most cases, congregations choose their minister, so they feel entitled to receive the message they pay for. The result is that now morality is rarely spoken of. Right and wrong have been replaced by positive and palatable.

Children are bombarded thousands of times a day with messages declaring that they are entitled to the right brands of clothing, electronics, cars, and more, and it has become axiomatic that every teenager must have complete access to the smart phone of his or her choice—accompanied by every app available. How could they possibly be acceptable to their peers—or even civilized—without this “connection” to the world?

What is the overall pattern here? With noticeable acceleration, a sense of entitlement is filling the world. People don’t just ask for what they want. They DEMAND it, because they honestly feel entitled to it.

Where does this sense of entitlement come from? Oh, that’s easy: PAIN. If you’re dying of thirst in the desert, for example, and you walk by my house with a swimming pool in the backyard, you’d almost certainly jump the low fence and bury your face in the water, without asking my permission. Why? Unconsciously, you would reason that your degree of need and pain would outweigh my need for ownership and privacy. The greater our pain, the more entitled we feel to make demands of people.

What is the solution to this epidemic of entitlement? Punishment of the offenders? Lectures on the dangers of selfishness? No and no. The solution is love. Only love can have a generalized and long-term effect on our emptiness and pain, and as those conditions diminish, so does the urgency of our selfishness, another description for entitlement. When people are relatively filled with the love they need most, they can make genuine requests, rather than making demands.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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