Sunday, April 19, 2015

Do Doctors Tell the Truth?

I love teachers.  And, I love the teaching profession.  I remember years ago teaching one class to middle-schoolers on a subject that I thought exuded fascination and drama – the Civil War.  It was a long 50 minutes.  Even my daughter was doing her best to feign interest.  While the fault here may have been with the guest instructor, the lesson for me, which I have not forgotten, is how tough the teaching trade is.

Teaching - Leave it to the Professionals

I don’t have the same affection for the teachers’ unions as I do for the profession.  Their unions are advocacy groups to protect the interests of its members.  There is nothing wrong with this.  Many professions and occupations, including mine, have similar societies to whom constituents pay money in  exchange for various job protections.

My issue with these groups is when they torture the truth to disguise the real reason for their positions.  Of course, even the most disinterested spectator can see through this charade.  How many times, for example, have we heard teachers’ unions championing a position claiming that ‘this is for our kids’, when it’s really for the teachers.  Just tell the truth.  If teachers oppose a proposal that threatens their livelihood, then just say so.  Let me illustrate.

A state government facing budgetary challenges floats a proposal to freeze teacher pay for 3 years.

Here’s what the teachers’ union says:

We will oppose any effort that threatens the education of our kids.

Here’s what they should say.

We will oppose any effort that threatens our compensation.  We work hard every day and deserve to be paid fairly for it. We hope the public will support us.

To those educators who are now seething at my holier than thou perspective, calm down.  Physicians are no better.  The American Medical Association, which I have not joined, issues the same bromides about ‘protecting patients’ when they are really aiming to ‘protect doctors’.  Again, nothing wrong with this mission.  Just tell the truth.

Recently, the Texas Medical Board is trying to restrict telemedicine in that state.  Leaving aside the merits and drawbacks of telemedicine, its expansion is inevitable.  Technology vanquishes every obstacle.  Readers here know of my deep concern that medical technology has sacrificed a large measure of our humanity.  Most patients and doctors will agree that electronic medical records, for example, have not burnished the doctor–patient relationship.  The Texas Medical Board’s language suggests that their concern is that telemedicine will threaten the doctor-patient relationship.  Come on folks, fess up.  Just say plainly that you don’t want out-of-town teledocs threatening the incomes of Texas physicians.  While the truth might not set you free, at least your credibility would be preserved.

Why do I write this blog.  It has nothing to do with my ego, of course.  ‘I do it only to serve my readers.’


dog gone said...

I would like to believe doctors tell the truth, at least as it concerns their patients.

Sadly, conservatives have legalized doctors lying to their patients. This would seem to undermine an essential quality of professional standards of medicine on which every patient should be able to rely.

Some states already mandate that doctors provide medically inaccurate anti-abortion propaganda, such as abortions cause breast cancer. Others have legitimized and legalized lying to a patient as an act of conscience, so as to deprive a patient of a valid information on which to make a decision about their life and health care.

Now THIS is on the table in Arizona and other states:
Can the Arizona Legislature Legally Make Doctors Lie About Abortion?
A new law requiring doctors to tell women that medication-induced abortions can be reversed -- a premise most of the health care community refutes -- could be in violation of the First Amendment, experts say.

I would argue your point about teachers that the high turnover in teaching IS adversely affecting the ability of the profession to provide a good quality of education, btw -- and that compensation is part of that.

Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

@DG, thanks for the comment. High turnover of educators is not desirable, of course, but do you think more aggressive unions would stanch this? I completely agree with you that the state as no role in the exam room. For this reason, I am against laws that dictate frequency of mammograms, for example. Politicization of medicine will only erode the quality of our medical care

Humaun Kabir said...
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