Tuesday, July 26, 2005

About time, Doctor, about f***ing time.

Generally speaking, the mere sight of a medical expert is enough to make most people bow down to them. The gray-haired, scrubs-wearing, stethescope-swinging doctor is a veritable God for the common man. He is an oracle - no, he's a giver and taker of life itself, and just look at him, so wise and brilliant and full of medical jargon and wow, they spend 10 years in school!

Reality, however is different. Not all treatments work. Doctors do screw up. Patients live with their pain and sometimes, they die.

So, don't you wish doctors could be a little more human and a little more accepting of their mistakes? Dr. Friedman poses this question in today's New York Times.

Here's a scary-as-hell statistic from the essay: "...44,000 to 98,000 people die each year in hospitals from preventable medical errors, many of them presumably made by doctors."

One of the most frustrating aspects of dealing with any expert is the implicit (and often explicit) "I Talk-You Listen" nature of the conversation. Whether we like it or not, arrogance is a part and parcel of expertise. Lawyers, surgeons, nuclear scientists, plumbers... But in a medical situation, this frustration is worsened by pain, sorrow and a ton of good old FUD. Patients know the treatment isn't working; they can feel the pain returning again and again; they are aware of the discomfort caused by the treatment - but still, they have no way to communicate this with the doctor.

Why? Because the Doctor's word is the Gospel truth. You don't dispute the Doctor's words. It might upset Him to think that you think He made a mistake.

I am aware that doctors do an incredibly tough job. But a little humility - is that too much to ask?


uma said...

good question. no, it's not too much to ask, and it's about time someone did.

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