Bioethics Blogs

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Here’s an intriguing letter from one John Doherty, published in the BMJ yesterday:

Medical titles may well reinforce a clinical hierarchy and inculcate deference in Florida, as Kennedy writes, but such constructs are culture bound.

When I worked in outback Australia the patients called me “Mate,” which is what I called them.

They still wanted me to be in charge.

Intriguing enough for me to go and have a look at what this Kennedy person had written.  It’s available here, and the headline goes like this:

The Title “Doctor” in an Anachronism that Disrespects Patients

Oooooo-kay.  A strong claim, and my hackles are immediately raised by the use of “disrespect” as a verb – or as a word at all.  (Don’t ask me why I detest that so; I don’t know.  It’s just one of those things that I will never be able to tolerate, a bit like quiche.)  But let’s see…  It’s not a long piece, but even so, I’ll settle for the edited highlights:

Medical titles reinforce a clinical hierarchy and frame the physician-patient relationship as a deferential one, which is hardly appropriate in person centered care.

A while ago I spent some time shadowing hospital doctors. On one of my shifts, a woman was brought to the emergency department.  A physician entered the patient’s room and introduced himself in the usual way.

“Hello, Ms Smith,” he said, “I’m Dr Jones. I will be taking care of you.”  The woman visibly stiffened after hearing this introduction.  This seemed odd, until I heard her reply: “Well, isn’t that nice?

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.