Medical Ethics

According to an essay in the Annals of Internal Medicine, some surgeons are grossly disrespectful to their female patients while they lay unconscious on the operating table. Groping as well as making unsavory remarks or gestures, were reported in an essay by an anonymous writer who had witnessed them. In an editorial the editors explained the dilemmas behind publishing a piece which may place the profession in an unflattering light and perhaps affect the trust of patients, but ultimately felt that transparency was more important. They felt that perhaps exposing the behavior may help some find the strength to abstain in future. As can be imagined the article was received with both praise and criticism of the editor’s decision. Those praising it also felt that such behavior shows that doctors are not any more above being sociopathic or criminals as are any other group. Those defending the behavior mentioned that it was legitimate to let off steam after perhaps saving someone’s life, that there are a lot of emotions pent up inside a surgeon cutting people open day after day.
I’ve braced myself each time I’ve had surgery. I had heard rumors and the article by Karen Kaplan—reported in the L.A. Times recently—confirmed my fears. Yes surgeons are no different than any other group, yes surgeons need to let off steam, but then so do most after a hard day’s work. I wonder how those surgeons choosing to be disrespectful and engage in obnoxious, offensive and objectionable behavior would react if their mothers, wives or daughters were the object of such behavior while undergoing surgery? Let’s hope such an article and the essay that prompted it flag the issue as one that needs changing.

One thought on “Medical Ethics”

  1. Thanks, Danielle, for bringing to light a little known, but real situation. I have experienced it happening in a doctor’s bedside visits as well. Doctors take an oath to heal and
    must separate their professional and personal behavior in fulfilling this promise.

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