Sunday, August 9, 2009

Medical Sensitivity, Too much to Expect?

This is something that gets my goat, each time I come across it, and I believe it is the worst kind of insensitivity that exists. Because a doctor is meant to maintain confidentiality of a patient, what is discussed inside a doctors chamber is meant to stay that way. But more often than not it does not, and the worst bit is, instead of being the party who is in control, being the one who is doling out the moolah, the patient is the helpless one, knowing no better than to have to deal with his most personal details being out in the open.

Years back, I had been to a plush gynecologist's clinic in south Bombay with a friend. Now we are talking about, one of the best gynecologist's in the city, where there is a waiting list of 4-5 months for an appointment, and each appointment is as pricey as it gets, three receptionists, someone to take down records and the works. The clinic, like most gynecological clinics was more of a fertility treatment centre. I was sitting in the waiting area, flipping through magazines, when out came a couple, aged in their early forties I am guessing. And off went the main receptionist rattling out tests, where they need to get it done. These were things like sperm counts, ovulation, as personal as it gets. The receptionists nonchalantly, and very audibly asked them about the lady's cycles, dates, when they should get the tests done. I was filled with revulsion. Is this not breach of ethics, is this not being insensitive to the highest degree. The worst was, the couple kept answering, feeling conspicuous, embarrassed, and feeling there is no other way to go about it. How does it feel? I can only imagine,and doing just that much makes me feel so terribly vulnerable and violated. I don't visit the doctor for publicity to my health issues, I go there for treatment, hopefully in the privacy of the clinic/hospital or wherever else.

Have you ever walked past a doctor's chamber with the door wide open, while a consultation is underway within, with every word being clearly audible to you. It so disgusts me, that I cannot even express it in words. Just this weekend, I was at the hospital for a blood test, and while waiting near the lab for my turn, I witnessed something equally repulsive. There a was man in the chair, waiting for his test, while a lady, I am guessing his wife, was waiting for him at the door. The technician suddenly says aloud, real loud in the silent confines of a hospital, "Yes, there is a special test, we can do a sperm test." Equally moronic people waiting outside turned to have a good look at the man inside, and my insides turned at the lack of discretion.

Is that what visits to doctors are supposed to be like, where I go to get healed, and instead come out, with my every gory problem laid out in the open for public consumption. The incidents I am telling you about are just a couple of the many I have witnessed. I have seen worse during my one week stay in the nursing home post delivery, and this insensitivity never ceases to disgust me. Every person who works in the health care industry deserves to be given strict training in the ethical and moral codes of their profession. They need it, and need it bad. It is never a happy occasion visiting doctors, and to make it a miserable experience due to lack of discretion simply stinks.

While many people, say it is an everyday affair for the doctors and other medical staff, and hence they are not sensitive, here is what I have to say, this is a profession they chose, not one they were forced to adapt. Is it similarly acceptable, if the defence personnel or the policemen for that matter randomly shoot and kill people, just because it is something they do everyday? I think not, and if the medical personnel cannot really understand their responsibilities, it needs to be put in as rules in their field of work. Does this happen everywhere in the world or are there places where stricter rules, and may I say code of ethics is in place?

7 comments:

Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

Having been at the receiving end of medical insensitivity, I applaud this post of yours. Whenever I think back to the incident in question I either feel like crying or slapping someone!! There really should be something to outlaw these unfeeling humanoids.

mummyjaan said...

"Does this happen everywhere in the world or are there places where stricter rules, and may I say code of ethics is in place? "

No, fortunately, it doesn't happen everywhere - there are places where confidentiality is taken very seriously and you wouldn't ever dream of discussing things outside the consultation room.

I believe that when you are bothered about something - service in any industry anywhere - healthcare or otherwise - you (or we, rather) should make an effort to make such concerns known to the management and administration. A verbal complaint is good; a written one is even better.

If no-one talks about it, nothing changes.

Sraboney said...

Unfortunately, doctor's clinics have also become businesses so everything has to be streamlined and efficient...Time is important, sensitivity is not...

Passionate Goof said...


M4 - I can understand exactly what you feel. Its the helplessness , being victims in the hands of the system that so gets to me.

Mymmyjaan - I completely agree about the complaints, but to be practical, someone who is not feeling well is unlikely to be able to take the extra effort, additionally, in India where such things happen, the administration does not care either, believe you me.

Bones - True, that is the reason, I think that These should be made into strict rules, and not left to the discretion of the doctors or staff.

Monika said...

i know what u mean and pisses me off beyond imagination

i am known to go and close the door of the doctor's cabin if he hasnt done it even if someone else is sitting inside and when i enter the cabin i close it myself

and if i was the couple in the first example i would not have given any details standing there and asked the person to step into a room

i guess its high time we take things in our control... sad but the only option

thethoughtfultrain said...

You got me started! My dad is a doc and he was recounting the experience of a doc friend of his. He was a professor but took up a position as a Chief of Dept in one of the corporate hospital. Imagine his shock when he was told the rules of the game. One of them being - targets!! As in numbers - they have to get x number of folks admitted, y number to be sent through medical tests etc.

I avoid the corporate hospitals as well as the docs with plush offices. They have no souls and I would rather get treated at the hospital which is reputed for its work rather for its brand value!

Sorry for hogging your comment space. And I know you were talking about insensitivity. For these high and mighties - we are just another cap to collect for the bounty prize, so you can see where the insensitivity is coming from.

Smitha said...

No, this certainly does not happen everywhere. Atleast here, in the UK, I have found that they are very very careful and considerate - atleast in my experience.. They always ensure doors are closed and are quite discreet.

I might have been lucky, but even in India, haven't come across this - so far.


I can't imagine how those people who had to endure such situations managed. Must have been horrible.