Don’t try to educate your patients too much.., because
This write up was triggered after encountering a patient who instructed his cardiologist to remove an incidentaly found block in Right coronary artery.
Oftentimes, It is a funny & futile world out there in modern medicine. Revealing the complete truths or accepting ignorance in critical decisions to their patients, make the Doctors feel that, their academic modesty and reputation are at stake.
Still, many patients expect (and think) the doctors to be 100 % transparent and want to understand the nuances of disease better than the doctors themselves. The current fad of online & offline health education for patients is not an accident of technology. Though some benefits exist, I feel, It is an intentionally promoted, maliciously motivated patient empowering movement, trying to disarm the true professionals.
Dear colleagues, always realize, never allow the default ignorance to become patients’ knowledge and ask them to take decisions on behalf of you. (I know, this is diagonally opposite to current principles of the practice of medicine) Fortunately, this issue doesn’t arise in most public hospitals in our country.
This paper was written 30 years ago with great foresight.
So, act with tact. You can’t hide behind the patient’s preferences in deciding the treatment choice. It can be “as unethical as” any activity that goes against the interest of the patients under which we are taking our oath. I don’t, recall anywhere in the Hippocratic oath, that we pledge to listen to the patient’s choice of treatment. (Rather, we assure to work in their interest always)
Let us sharpen our own skills first. We shall think about how to distill and consume the muddy knowledge emanating from the current mess of premature research spilling all over academia. Don’t try to educate too much to your patients. There is nothing called academic empathy because leaving it to our patients will ultimately end up equivalent to medical negligence.
Forget about the patient-guided treatment menu card. Think about this, if ordering a trendy new medical investigation purely on a patient’s demand is declared as medical negligence, How many doctors on this planet will be left non-negligent.(Stop. then what is a master health check-up? Who is the master ?)
(Hope this write-up is taken from a proper perspective. No intent to create a chasm between patients and doctors relationship )
Drane JF, Coulehan JL. The concept of futility. Patients do not have a right to demand medically useless treatment. Counterpoint. Health Prog. 1993 Dec;74(10):28-32.
Postamble & Counterpoint
It all sounds good on paper. The consequence of not listening to our patients, especially if they land up with complications, will look awkward, is it not? So, I always go by patients’ desires.
Patients tend to believe in fancy investigations and machines and not me, what to do?
No, it is wrong. You can’t justify it. Regarding your concern and impact on our reputation, nothing can be done. The medical judiciary desperately needs some reforms, understand the reality to protect us I always tell my patients they have to accept me as a whole. (Do you enter the Aeroplane’s cabin and check the pilot’s mental and physical acumen every time you board a flight. It is trust,.. complete trust, that drives our life right !)
It is true, that medical professionals must be always under a continuous quality* control regimen. The consequences of consulting less shrewd medical personnel, their errors in judgment, the stress of work, patients need to accept* just like a side effect of a drug or a natural history of a disease.
*, Unlike the engineering field, defining & controlling quality in medical therapeutics is a mystery exercise with multiple agendas!