Friday, April 30, 2010

Bedside Manners

Honesty is the best policy, right? Not necessarily. If you're a doctor with an atrocious bedside manner, some things are best kept to yourself. On the other hand, if a sensitive and gentle approach doesn't align with the politics of your state legislators, then it's best to lay it all out in the open. Unless *that* isn't politically correct. Clear as mud?

After the jump, the mixed and confusing cases in the news.

Dr. Mary Milam, a Fort Worth oncologist, is accused of telling a cancer patient who had not responded to chemotherapy that "if it were me, I would get a bottle, a gun and go into the woods." After being reprimanded by the Texas Medical Board, Dr. Milam said to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "I've told that same thing to other patients. And they've appreciated my honesty."

Meanwhile, north of the Red River, Oklahomans are sending mixed messages about honesty to their doctors. The Oklahoma Legislature has just enactedtwo tough anti-abortion laws. The first requires women to have ultrasounds and requires doctors to set up the monitor so women can see it and to describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus. The other law

"prevents women who have had a disabled baby from suing a doctor for withholding information about birth defects while the child was in the womb. Opponents argue that the law will protect doctors who purposely mislead a woman to keep her from choosing an abortion. [Gov. Brad] Henry said, 'It is unconscionable to grant a physician legal protection to mislead or misinform pregnant women in an effort to impose his or her personal beliefs on a patient.'"

So, in Oklahoma, doctors are required to be brutally honest even with victims of rape or incest who seek to end their pregnancies. Pregnant women are forced to listen to a doctor as he counts aloud the number of fingers and toes on the fetus. On the other hand, if Oklahoma doctors keep to themselves the fact that the baby is going to be born with severe birth defects, Oklahoma legislators say, don't worry. Silence is golden. Like in Texas, there's only so much honesty the good folks of Oklahoma can stand.

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