Still, trying to get rid of these “Seven sins in medicine” !

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Dr.Richard Asher,  a British physician from Sussex addressed a group of young passing out medical students way back in 1948 in London. The lecture was titled seven sins of medicine! We should thank the Lancet for having published this brief speech the subsequent year in its journal making it immortal medical teaching!

Seven sins of medicine lancet 1949

Seven sins of medicine

Though he was listing these sins among medical students, it is very relevant to every health professional.

1. Obscurity
Asher endorses the use of clear communication and plain language whether writing or speaking. Obscurity may be used to cloak one’s own ignorance, or due to an inability to communicate with those outside of the medical profession. “If you don’t know, don’t admit it. Instead, try to confuse your listeners.” is not uncommon. Regardless of the intention, whether to misdirect from incompetence or to foster a feeling of superiority, the patient and those surrounding them are often left confused and uncertainiy.
2. Cruelty
 This sin is perhaps one of the most commonly committed by doctors and medical students. Whether it be the physical thoughtlessness of a half-dozen students palpating a painful tumor mass, or loudly taking (or presenting) a patient’s history in a crowded room, one of the first things that is unlearnt by a medical professional is to treat the patient as they themselves would like to be treated.
3. Bad Manners
 Often overlooked, rudeness or poor taste in humour is condoned within the hospital setting. At the end of the day, many doctors and students are simply rude to patients that do not suit them. Whether it is a snapping at an uncooperative patient or making a cruel joke about them after leaving the room, the impact of these “coping mechanisms” (as they are considered to be by many) must be taken into account.
4. Over-Specialisation
 In a growing trend by the medical establishment, over-specialization and under-generalization is a growing problem in the wider medical community. Ignoring aspects of one’s education in favor of more interesting aspects is a behavior that is pathological and outright negligent in a student. Failure to diagnose or to treat a patient because “their signs and differential fall outside of my field, let’s turf them to another service” ought to be a seriously considered Supervisory & Training issue.
5. Love of the Rare
 (aka “If you hear hoof-beats, think horses. Not zebras”) The desire for rare and interesting diseases causes many medical students and young doctors to seek the bizarre rather than seeing a mundane diagnosis.
6. Common Stupidity
As well as the standard definition for this sin, the specific example of “using empirical procedures rather than tailoring for the patient” or the young doctor “flying on autopilot” must be mentioned. Ordering another test that is redundant, and for which the results may already be interpreted from the history, before starting treatment is such a situation. For example: requesting a hemoglobin count before beginning transfusion, despite the fact that the patient appears obviously anaemic.
7. Sloth
 Laziness. Also includes ordering excessive numbers of tests, rather than simply taking the time to take an adequate history

Final message

 It is astonishing, to note  Dr.Asher made this observation in the very early days in the evolution of modern medicine,(No critical care units, no HMOs, No industry nexus with research, & commodification of medicine  )  I wonder what Dr. Asher would have to write if he is alive in 2021.

Wish every medical professional find where they fit in this Asher score. Looking back on my career, I must confess my score would be 3 (or may be 4 !) out of 7.  Now, desperately trying to get rid of them. Mind you, the 4th (Overspecailisation)  and 6 th (common stupidity) is inherently built into the system. I think, very tough to avoid them.