by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.
When I was a graduate student in my clinical bioethics masters program I was rotating through a pediatric subspecialty, following a physician. The first half of the day was great. The doctor introduced me to patients, explained what was going on with them, explained his plans and his hopes for each patient. About two-thirds through one particular day he asked me for my stethoscope. I thought “Uh-oh, He doesn’t understand.” When I responded that I did not have one, he said “What kind of medical student are you.” I shrugged my shoulders. When we left that patient’s room I re-explained to him (as I had in my email asking if I could shadow him) that I was a student in the medical school studying clinical ethics, but I was not a medical student.
For the next several hours, doors he would walk into an exam room and shut the door on me. I was not introduced to patients but did that myself. Nothing was explained. I was, in short, a tolerated nuisance that he probably wanted to go away. As we left the last patient of the day, the physician turned to me and addressed me directly for the first time in 3 hours: “Well, was I ethical?” Then he stormed off. I tried to explain I was there to learn, not to judge, but he was long gone.
Despite a growing history of ethics committees in hospitals, it seems that few people understand what such committees are and what clinical ethicists actually do.
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.