Beware of Doctors Who Think They are Infallible

25.02.2018

All doctors need to be sure of the words they use when speaking with patients and their families. When a doctor thinks he or she is infallible trouble looms. Doctors need to have compassion and listen to the words they use with patients and their families. A diagnosis should never be given over the telephone, particularly when it is incorrect.

It is always painful to hear accounts of doctors who make statements that are false for which they  have no basis. Yes, there are some great doctors, but there are doctors who must feel they have crystal balls because of some of the things they say. I remember as a little girl meeting the owner of a candy store who had been told, as a young man, that he had just a few months to live. He was diagnosed as having tuberculosis somewhere in the East and decided to move to California. I remember him as a tall, handsome, elderly man with white hair. He had lived for sixty or more years after the time he was supposed to die.

A friend recently told me of the surgeon who operated on her son's brain tumor and announced to the man's wife that it was a very malignant tumor, which would give her husband just six months to live. The man is now doing well two  years later after having had chemotherapy. What was the surgeon thinking? I wonder if he ever apologized, but suspect he did not.

Another doctor called a mother and told her that her son had muscular dystrophy. The single parent mother became hysterical, as you can well understand. The boy did not have muscular dystrophy, but instead had treatable dermatomyosis and later became a professor.

I think medical schools are admitting very bright students who often lack compassion. The "art of medicine" is slowly being lost. A doctor should never, ever make statements, particularly by phone,  without being sure they are backed up by positive evidence.

Article last time updated on 25.02.2018.

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