Medical Ethics PHIL 148 @ Binghamton University, Sum 11


Patient-Professional Relationship News Article

This article talks about doctors and how they go about treating their patients; essentially, the degree of truthfulness between the doctor and the patient during the diagnostic and treatment phase.  In this article, the  Archives of Internal Medicine released a study which concluded that the treatment doctors would recommend for themselves are more often a different treatment from the one they would recommend to their patients.  Duke university physicians performed two studies.  The first study involved 500 doctors who had to treat themselves and their patients for colon cancer.  37.8% of the doctors chose one method of treatment for themselves which entailed a higher death rate but less complications upon survival.  The majority of the doctors chose a different method of treatment for their patients which entailed a lower death rate but more complications upon survival.  The second study involved 698 doctors who had to treat themselves and their patients for a new strain of avian flu.  There was only one treatment, an immunoglobulin shot, which would lessen side effects but could possibly entail new ones.  Of the 698 doctors, 62.9% said that they would not treat themselves with the shot; however, when asked about the patient's treatment, the majority of doctors determined that they would recommend administering the immunoglobulin shots.

This article reveals that doctors aren't necessarily doing what they truly feel is best for the patients.  Higgs said, "It is easier to decide what to do when the ultimate outcome is clear."  Maybe this is the reason why doctors aren't being as truthful to their patients as they should be; maybe the fear of the unknown that plagues the patient plagues the physician to a equal or higher degree as well.  Telling the patients the truth is one ethical dilemma but treating them differently from how they would treat themselves is absurd.  I was shocked by the statistics that revealed how doctors would treat themselves differently from their patients.  I was always under the assumption that the doctor would be able to place himself/herself into their patients' "shoes" and be able to decide what is best for the patient or display some sort of care ethics.  There must be reasons for why there such a disparity in treatment.  Why do you think there was such a disparity in the two studies mentioned above?  In general, do you feel that doctors make decisions based on malpractice fears?  In general, do you believe doctors sometimes are caught up in care ethics and make emotion based decisions rather than fact based?  In general, do you believe doctors are just trying to be utilitarian and see, diagnose, and treat patients as efficiently as they can?

I personally chose this story, because I felt the statistics jumped off the page.  The two studies revealed that a majority of doctors would treat themselves differently than they would treat their patients.  This act surpasses the fact that doctors sometimes don't tell the truth; they don't act truthfully which I believe is worse.  Higgs sums it up best when he says, " However honest a citizen, it was somehow part of the doctors job not to tell the truth to his patient."



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