Wednesday, March 16, 2005

On Turning Water into Wine

Well, I've gotten a bunch of emails on my post regarding the PC silliness of Medical College of Ohio receiving and spending $2 million dollars to teach "bedside manners".

Here was the scenario that reportedly triggered this endowment on behalf of a Ruth Hillebrand:
Hillebrand's doctor in New York called her late one night and told her she had mesothelioma. He said there was no treatment and no cure. Then he hung up."
Personally I can't imagine a training program that could have prevented such insensitivity and crassness. The institution of such a program plays well to the public and probably looks good on their brochures but wouldn't have turned an inconsiderate, uncaring medical student into a loving and compassionate physician.

I don't mean to imply that there is nothing to be gained by teaching etiquette, manners, sensitivity, etc. Medical students have many opportunities to observe physicians interact with patients. Every medical instructor must view each clinical interaction as an opportunity to model the dignity, respect and compassion that all patients deserve from their doctors.

I also don't discount the value of classroom discussions regarding the compassionate treatment of patients or the value of "role-playing" exercises. But it seems to me that these activities don't require any special facilities or curriculum. Certainly a medical school could find a better use for $2 million dollars.

Any medical student who would one day treat a patient as shabbily as the docter outlined above reflects not so much a flaw in his training as a breakdown in the admission process.


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