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Buddy, can you spare doc a dime?

The headline couldn't have been more shocking if it had said, "Clintons, Starrs picnic together."

"Doctors to Unionize" it said.So who's next? Professional athletes?

Doctors make, on average, $200,000 a year, and that doesn't count the prescriptions at cost or the free magazines.

They play golf on Wednesdays. They live on tree-lined streets. They have gardeners and brokers. They vacation in Aruba and Bermuda.

The older ones drive Cadillacs. The newer ones drive Lexuses.

They do not carry thermoses.

They wouldn't have a clue what to do if a catering truck pulled up at lunch time.

They are not difficult to tell apart from steelworkers.

But here they are, crying the workin' man's blues, just like assembly line workers, sick and tired of the company store, claiming oppression, learning the words to Joe Hill songs.

It is hard to conjure, union doctors.

All traditional methods of union muscle just don't fit.

Receptionist: I'm sorry, the doctor can't see you today. He's out front manning the picket line.

Patient: But I have a fever of 105, and my skin is falling off.

Receptionist: Just what we're looking for! Could we use you in a union TV ad?

Just exactly how are union doctors going to demand higher pay and better benefits?

Threaten to bash anyone crossing the picket line with their signs -- but promise to patch you up later?

Stage a sickout?

Refuse to treat management?

And where in the world are doctor scabs going to come from?

The American Medical Association is behind this pro-union mood. At its convention last week it voted to sanction unionizing in an effort to gain strength in the face of conglomerate health care groups that tell doctors what they can charge and what they can and can't do.

They also complain about their hand-writing.

Well, the doctors of America have had a gut-full. They didn't go to school for 30 years just to have an HMO accountant order them around. They'll stick up for their rights. They'll charge what they want.

That's their first opinion -- and their second.

Their slogan: Solidarity, not Prozac.

I always thought the American Medical Association was a kind of ultimate union anyway.

Name an organization in America that more effectively and ruthlessly controls the supply and demand of its work force.

All together, the United States has a grand total of just 620,000 doctors.

More people work at McDonald's.

You know how it is. When was the last time you visited a doctor and didn't think you were taking up too much of his or her time?

They're busier than Pebble Beach.

On the days they choose to work.

America desperately needs more doctors. Small towns beg for them. Large towns covet them. Medium-size cities crave more of them.

And yet, the AMA makes sure medical schools remain as hard to get into as a car with The Club. The good ones accept, what, four a year?

And when was the last time you read this headline: "New Med School to Open at State U"?

I'll tell you who ought to unionize. Patients ought to unionize.

Patients ought to form long lines outside the doctor's offices.

Patients ought to complain about few rights and virtually no control.

Patients ought to stage a sickout.

Oh, that's right, we're already doing that.

Send e-mail to (benson@desnews.com), fax 801-237-2527. Lee Benson's column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.