Friday, July 14, 2006

We're doctors. We don't talk, we order.

It was interesting watching the TV series "House" the other night with this story and comment conversation ringing in my ears. There have certainly been a lot of stories lately about parents losing custody for disagreeing with doctors, and a surprising amount of opinion among parents that anyone who doesn't embrace conventional medical treatment is negliigent, and maybe I've become too cynical from repeated exposure to medical professionals, but I can't quite buy the "doctor is always right" line. So here I am watching "House," still a little stung by some of those blog comments, and darned if the plot doesn't revolve specifically around a mom who's resistant to the recommendations of House and his crew. Her son is brought to the hospital with seizures of a mysterious origin, and the medical detectives go right to work figuring it out. They come up with solution after solution to try, each time sure it's right, each time sure it's a matter of life and death that the boy gets the treatment, each time having to cajole or cudgel the mom into agreeing. House proposes legal action at one point, and at another tricks the mom into going along. Oh my goodness, what a pain it is to deal with these parents who don't immediately say yes! How thoughtless and child-injuring are they!

Except that ... um ... all but one of the times, the mom was right. Absolutely right, and the doctors were absolutely wrong. The doctors wasted time on a couple of wrong conclusions because they refused to listen to or believe her, and on one occasion only failed to give the kid a mistreatment that would have killed him because the mom dragged her feet long enough for new evidence to come in. She's treated with disrespect or something close to it throughout, yet it's the doctors who keep making bad decisions. And all along, I kept thinking: "You know, all they have to do is sit down with this woman, respectfully, and say, 'Your son has a really baffling condition. We don't know what's causing it. We're trying like crazy to find out. We're trying everything. We may make mistakes, but he'll die if we don't keep trying. We need you to understand that this is the only way we can help." But of course, they don't, because doctors are gods, right? Sheesh.

1 comment:

ellie said...

Doctors are human beings. They make mistakes and they sometimes base their opinions on presumptions or faulty research. They most certainly are not always right. They are there to give their opinion and then stand back and let patients or the parents of patients decide...

I always find it sad that there's this hero worship thing going. It seems to close even the ears and eyes of otherwise reasonably intelligent people.

Ouch, you really touched a nerve over here! But I'm glad it's not just me...