Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.
If you're looking for a doctor to prescribe medical marijuana, you might find one in Florida. But if you want a doctor to prescribe a visit to the Braer site, a wade into an outdoor celebration of some kind, or even a prescription to touch the sea and feel the texture of the water, then your doctor is in Scotland.
Yes, Scottish physicians have now been authorized to prescribe nature! The benefits of "nature" on mental and physical health have long been espoused. Conditions such as hypertension, depression, pain control, and immune disorders have been found to benefit from outdoor explorations and attempts at relaxation.
So, how can you possibly prescribe nature?
You can't take it. You can't swallow it. You definitely can't administer it rectally (or so I think). So how can you prescribe it?
The fact is you can't. You can only recommend that a patient undergo outdoor activities. I suppose you can make recommendations for particular activities at certain locations and seasons, but calling those recommendations a prescription in need of authorization flies in the face of the definition of the word "prescription" and in the face of. . . well. . . nature!
But here's the overarching question and the point that really struck me about this story: if you can't take it home with you, if you can't buy it, if you can't possess it, then why would a health care provider need authorization to prescribe it? The concept defies credulity, doesn't it?
Well that's exactly what happened in Scotland! The Health Board for Shetland, Scotland, just authorized prescribing nature. If it doesn't alarm you that a governmental organization would have such overwhelming control of your health care that it can decide when your doctor may or may not prescribe something as all pervasive as nature, then I don't know what will.
Whatever you do this November, fight for your health care. Don't let your government take control of it. It just might decide that you need authorization just to access nature.
Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages and serves in the Florida House of Representatives. He can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.com to arrange a lecture or book signing.