We have all seen the stories. X physician dragged out of the clinic after coming into work intoxicated (and about to do surgery) or Y physician accused of sexually assaulting dozens of female athletes training for the US Women Gymnastic team.
What is up with all the misconduct, you might ask yourself?
The part of all these stories that is startling is that these individuals, no matter the fact they are mortal and capable of error, take an Oath as part of their medical training. This Oath is called the Hippocratic Oath. In sum, the Oath says that no physician shall do harm to another human being and that they shall never administer a deadly drug. Every medical school in the United States has their version of the Oath which revolves around this assertion.
Now, we can sit on this platform and others and say that physicians are merely human and that they are indeed capable of error and lapse of judgment, that they signed up for a profession and not a lifestyle of perfect behavior. But, what needs to be understood from these false excuses is that physicians in our society are not treated with the same mere regard the rest of us are. We all know the stiflingly different levels of respect even Ph.D.’s get compared to MD’s, and we all know the fact that if you have never attained a graduate level of education even seeing someone who has garners this sense of awe. So, since they are paid at the same level they are regarded (highly) then we should require physician’s attitudes and behaviors to be a spotlight for ethical prowess.
Here is the thing, a lot of people will say out of the thousands of physicians out there the ones that we hear about on T.V. are the ‘bad apples.’ Really, people.
Anyone who has worked in a clinic shadowed a physician for a few hours, or even spoken to their doctor for a few frustrated minutes knows that the switch from the ‘good doctor’ to an entitled despot take shape quite quickly in the realm of those dealing with the sick and the dying.
Yes, doctors are people.
No, they are not entitled to bad behavior as long as they feel they should be entitled to be called ‘Dr. So-And-So’ in the first place.
What we have seen in the news in recent months is only a small sliver of the ugly side that years of training and a social hierarchy of medical training rooted in competition breeds within individuals destined to be healers.
We must herald physicians out there who remain lighthearted and humane despite the immense amount of work that goes into their profession. But, there are far too many physicians who choose to operate, literally, with a slurred perception of human dignity and conduct.