Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Doctors Need to Do Their Jobs

Hexy over at Feministe has an article about a survey that was done on British medical students regarding refusal of treatment. Of 700 students, the survey found that roughly half of them felt that they had a right, as doctors, to refuse to carry out certain procedures or provide certain care. These included abortions, intimate examinations of the opposite sex, prescribing birth control, and treating intoxicated patients (whether it be drugs or alcohol). One-fifth of them cited religious reasons.

As Hexy and many commentors point out, there are several problems with this. The first that comes to my mind being that, particularly with religious beliefs, if you have certain factors in your life that prevent you from doing your job, you probably should not be in that line of work. It isn't as though you are not aware that there are certain things that doctors do on a regular basis. If you have a problem with these things, being a doctor probably isn't the line of work for you. Maybe medical research would be better suited for you if you are going to be making judgements about peoples' worthiness of receiving medical care.

Secondly, this brings up the whole "drug seeking" issue, as well as M√ľnchausen's labels and how that can stigmatize patients in future medical treatments. People that visit doctors offices often or hop from physician to physician run the risk of being labeled with one or both of these detrimental labels. A patient can run this risk particularly when they become familiar with medical processes.

Using myself as an example, in my latest round of doctor's visits, I complimented the phlebotomist on her ability to draw blood, and that it was most painless and stress free blood draw I'd ever had done. I'm also able to inform my doctor of every pain medication I have ever been on, the precise amount, and what has and has not worked. Luckily, my current physician understands that because I have been seeing so many doctors for so many years, trying to figure my illness out, I have had to immerse myself in the lingo and I have refined my relaying of information. Precision in informing him what I'm on, what has worked, what hasn't (opiates have no effect on my pain), quantities, placement, type and severity of symptoms, all in a way that is concurrent with how doctors use that information, makes it easier on everyone.

I'm lucky. My current doctor gets it. However, I have encountered plenty of doctors that have suggested I was just looking for painkillers (which is partially true: the right painkillers would relieve my pain), or seeking attention, or had some sort of psychiatric condition. Because of these (false) conclusions, they shuffle me away and refuse to treat me. I have also had pharmacists refuse to dispense my birth control, whether it be for religious reasons or the hippy woman who told me I was going to upset my feminine energy by only having 4 periods a year (seriously, wtf?). Religious beliefs, spiritual beliefs, socio-economic beliefs, ableist beliefs, and so on that are strongly held to and over-rule professional judgement are a problem.

I have never understood why people would go into professions where they have religious or moral issues with some of the fundamental tasks performed by that profession. Doctors write scripts and perform examinations and surgeries on all types of people. Pharmacists dispense scripts. Bus drivers drive buses that have ads on them. If you have some major factor in your life (such as religious beliefs) that will more than likely affect your ability to perform your job, find another job. If you can not separate certain beliefs you have from your professional capabilities and responsibilities, that is on you; not the person you are denying your services.

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