Bad Medicine*

Ah, much to be annoyed about in the world of health care this morning. Where to begin?

The CBC is reporting this morning about physicians who are offended by negative remarks on a website, RateMDs.com, and are implying that Canadian patients who comment negatively could be sued for libel. One doctor in particular, quoted at the end of the story, is ‘devastated’ by a rating of ‘Average’.

Many of us who aspire to be ‘average’ can rightfully take offense at this – and if she’s that emotionally unstable (lawsuit ahoy!), quite frankly, I think the rating is a bit high. Incidentally, my family doctor rates a 4.2 out of 5, a rating I heartily agree with.

The site is just a logical extension of word of mouth, facilitated by the wide open range called the Net, allowing opinions to reach a wider audience. This is the new town square, coffee shop, or what have you, although you may never meet your ‘neighbor’. RateMyProfessors.com has been doing good ‘business’ for quite some time, with no threats of lawsuits that I’m aware of. Is it possible the medical profession has no desire to allow patients to comment on their skills?

Yeah, seriously, what do they know?

The Globe and Mail reports today that the Medical Protection Association, the soulless drones organization that protects doctors from themselves unnecessary litigation, is warning the docs that they could be held liable if something happens while a patient is waiting for treatment. In my opinion, it’s about time that someone pointed out that the ridiculously high waiting times for medical treatment in some areas isn’t only due to those bothersome sick people, but that doctors have some responsibility for what happens as well.

Excuse me, I’m having a “Well, duh” moment.

Admittedly, medicine is as much an art as a science, and nobody in the profession can claim to be perfect, but both items above illustrate a critical problem with health care, in my opinion: doctors have neither the motivation nor the desire to be held responsible for their actions (or lack thereof). In our society, we can comment honestly (let’s just go with this for now, shall we?) on the performance of the teenager who serves us a greasy cheeseburger (mmm…cheeseburger…), and we can comment on how well instructors are doing in higher education, which is admittedly slightly more critical to the functioning of our society. However, doctors are immune from criticism? Hypothetically, they are service providers as well – if you have that cheeseburger and you get lousy service, however, you aren’t likely to die (well, not immediately, anyway).

I think what we have here is the erosion of the last vestiges of the MD = GOD thesis that was generally accepted during the early to mid part of the last century. Doctors are trying to hold onto whatever impression of infallibility that society may still hold in their regard.

Bad news, Doctor Death, we’ve figured you out. You are not immune to criticism – you may intimidate people into not commenting on the website, but people will go back to the old method – bad-mouthing you in person to one another. It’s petulant attitudes like this last grasp for infallibility that make us cynical towards you, and motivate us to comment negatively after a bad experience.

And a bad medical experience can be a killer.

*Because a Blog without a Bon Jovi quote is like a fish without a bicycle.


3 thoughts on “Bad Medicine*

  1. Flash, first things first. Regarding the title of your entry and the comment on it’s source at the bottom; I have never seen Bon Jovi and Germaine Greer referenced in the same sentence before. Bravo! You are a true Renaissance man.

    Regarding the petulant MD’s, it’s not just a wish to return to the good old days of being unquestioned authorities, but an extension of the modern trend of people in positions of power and responsibility trying to further reduce their exposure to the consequences of their decisions and actions. Everyone from pliticians to senior public servants look for some kind of insulation from the repercussions of their actions. Let’s not forget the corporate world. Executive offices and boardrooms are full of people who run companies into the ground while lining their pockets. Doctors may be feeling that since no one else is accountable, why should they be. It’s funny that the mess at Walter Reed Army Hospital has brought down three senior officials in the Pentagon, it has not touched the people who decided to privatize the support services. Is it just a coincidence that the man who runs the company providing those services used to work for Halliburton?


  2. Alex is right – this is another example of those in power trying to maintain that power by eny means possible. I notice that they also rate dentists, too. I swear that dentistry is a scam. A scam perpetrated by the boat-building and golf industries.

    Oh, and thanks Flash – I’m going to have to put a gun to my head to get that dreadful song out of my head. AAAahhhh – 80’s hair bands!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1


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