Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Doctor-Patient Relationship

From MedicalNewsToday.com, Canadian doctors rank the top ten medical ethics issues. Number one is disagreement about what should be done between doctors and patients and their families.

Sometimes, I think it is easy to pick sides. For example, patients who insist upon antibiotics for viral treatments are clearly wrong. They are not making an informed choice in such case, but rather they are deciding to do something not only useless for their treatment but harmful to themselves and the population at large because of the nature of antibiotics and bacterial resistance that develops against them from overuse.

However, the challenges of "end of life" decisions are not so easy.

The article says: "...involving a family demanding that everything be done to maintain a patient's life versus a medical team that views continuing aggressive intervention as tantamount to torture. [I would add here that I imagine doctors often also argue that continuing aggressive treatment is futile, wasteful, and so on--not just tortuous. Think Terri Schiavo.] Families may cite deeply held religious beliefs [I would add, not just religious beliefs, but also value systems, etc.] and argue they are shared by the patient, or accuse the health care team of wanting to save money or to give the resources to another patient. Conflict ensues and communication often breaks down."

I'm glad I came across this today. 'Tis to be the topic of my thesis, which I plan to begin in August.

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