By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

Forty-eight years is a long career in almost any profession. Dr. John Lane, who has been practicing family medicine in Lower Bucks County for most of that time, officially retired Sept. 30.

“Medicine is a noble profession. You are dealing with human life, which is so sacred,” Lane said. “I’ve always enjoyed it.”

His love affair with medicine really started as a young child. Growing up in Mount Airy and St. Therese of the Child Jesus Parish, he really admired the family pediatrician, Dr. John Williams, and thought he would like to be a doctor too. It stuck with him through St. Joseph’s Prep and St. Joseph’s College, and he went on to medical school at Jefferson. After receiving his MD, he interned at Germantown Hospital.

His first three years as a physician were spent in the public health field in Staten Island, N.Y., and North Carolina. But he and his wife Patricia had married during his fourth year of medical school, and their family was growing, so they moved back to the Philadelphia area to settle down. Not long after, he switched to private practice in family medicine, first by himself, then in group practice as Durham Physicians in Penndel.

Over the years the Lane family has had membership at Our Lady of Calvary and St. Anselm parishes in Northeast Philadelphia and now Our Lady of Grace in Penndel.

Back when he started, he had a single staff member; office visits were $4 and house calls $6. Today’s more complex medical system means the three doctors and one nurse practitioner have a large support staff, along with an equal number of computers and other complex equipment.

Even more so today such issues as medical liability strongly influence costs, especially through often unnecessary tests. Lane also thinks healthy competition rather than more government and insurance providers’ involvement would better control expenses.

“We have to get health insurance into the hands of the patient, not the government or an employer. A third party is like a girlfriend in a marriage,” he said. “It doesn’t help the relationship.”

A member of the Philadelphia Guild of the Catholic Medical Association since the 1970s and a former president and a past national president of the Catholic Medical Association, Lane decries the erosion of ethical standards in medicine.

“I was raised in the Hippocratic tradition,” he said. “For 2,500 years the Hippocratic Oath was the ethic of medicine. It forbade abortion and euthanasia and now it has been disemboweled. With secularization it has become unfashionable to bring God into medicine. Our origins and destiny are sacred. Pope John Paul II and now Benedict kept us on the straight and narrow. They encourage us to look on man as he was created. We have to know God and try to act like Him.”

As to whether medicine and the nation as a whole will ever return to the old standards, Lane believes believe so.

“I think someday,” he said, “just like slavery was turned around by the courts, so will abortion.” Now Lane is 78 and formally retiring. A first order of business for himself and his wife will be a cruise through the Panama Canal. Then there will be visits to family. With seven children scattered around the country (several in the medical field) and 19 grandchildren, that will take up a bit of time.

But there are other things too. “I’ll stay active with the Philadelphia Guild and the Catholic Medical Association,” he said. “I might teach a little and perhaps do some volunteer work for a clinic for poor people without insurance.”

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.