Posted by Bill Sandweg on 05 February 2018.
Many professions strive to meet lofty ethical goals and the medical profession is no different. The American Medical Association has long promulgated a set of Principles of Medical Ethics. The problem is that many doctors, while mouthing the platitudes contained in the AMA principles, don’t live up to them in practice.
One of the first ethical principles requires a physician to be “honest in all interactions . . . .” This means that a doctor who has injured you through medical malpractice should admit that fact to you. Good luck with that. It is a rare patient who is ever told that he or she has been injured through a medical mistake. Instead, records are fudged or left vague. The code of silence takes over and the patient is led to believe that the injury was no one’s fault or was just one of those things. Well-meaning nurses may whisper to a patient’s family that they should see a lawyer but no one is likely to come forward and admit the error, except a few brave, honest physicians. This is in spite of a law in Arizona which makes such admissions inadmissible in a subsequent malpractice suit.
The same principle that requires “honesty in all interactions” requires the reporting of physicians “deficient in character or competence” to appropriate authorities. This is one that even many honest and caring physicians fail to follow.
In any profession as large as the medical profession, there will be incompetent physicians. Very often other doctors know who these people are but do nothing. The reasons for turning a blind eye are many. The doctor who knows about a colleague may not want to offend the colleague, especially if they practice in a small community. There may be resentment in the medical community toward a doctor who is considered a “snitch.” The doctor who knows may legitimately fear retaliation from the incompetent doctor or her partners. The doctor who knows may fear a defamation suit. None of these reasons makes it any better for the public, which is left to suffer continued malpractice at the hands of the incompetent physician, but the reasons for not reporting are at least understandable.
The last principle which I will mention requires physicians to seek changes in laws which are contrary to the best interests of the patient. Given the unrelenting efforts of the medical profession to strip away or limit the rights of injured patients to sue when they have been the victim of malpractice, to hold this out as an ethical principle is a joke. Why does the AMA bother to even pretend that doctors should be looking out for the rights of patients? Take one look at the House Republican malpractice bill if you want to see how doctors stick it to patients. It’s all about the Benjamins and not about the patients.
Doctors, stop complaining about patients standing up for their rights when they have been injured by medical malpractice. Get your own house in order and, perhaps, there would be fewer malpractice suits to complain about.