Doctors vs. Society

Throughout history there has been an ongoing conflict in societal views about the medical field. Doctors are well loved and recognized in communities, but they’re also feared. Why is this so? How can there be two so very opposing views? Throughout history the workers of medical field have researched, studied, and discovered lots of diseases and many cures to them, but the processes by which they were able to do so was not always morally acceptable.

Informed consent: “subjects must be aware that they are participating, must be informed, must consent, and must be allowed to weigh the possible risks and benefits.” (Washington, 7). Informed consent must be properly given when an experiment takes place for it to be considered morally correct. Without consent, many problems arise; documentation lacks patient information in respect to their identity, cover ups/lies are used, patients are mistreated, and conflict arises. When these problems arise, a tension is created between a doctor and their patients.

There has been evidence of doctor’s using different wording in order to make a treatment sound more appealing to their patients. One example of this can be found in Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington where doctors injected their patients with a so called “product,” which was a plethora of radioactive elements. The side effects of this treatment were harsh and harmful. Additionally, there was a lack of consent since doctors deceived patients by letting them believe that they were being helped rather than harmed, “in the syphilis study of Tuskegee, the victims thought their doctors were caring for them,” (Washington, 219). In this study, doctors cared for healthy patients by treating them as though they had syphilis while neglecting to properly treat the patients that were infected with syphilis. Furthermore, they were exposing the healthy patients to the disease by placing them in similar quarters where they could encounter those who were carriers of Syphilis. Home by Toni Morrison includes yet another example of doctors harming patients. One of the characters named Cee was working for a doctor without knowing what he actually did to his patients and then she was drugged and became the victim herself.

Improperly documented patient information was yet another problem that caused concerns about the medical community. In Medical Apartheid, Eileen Welsome attempts to get information of people who fell victim to mistreatment from doctors but struggles to find specific information and identities of the patients. Additionally, In Bones by Marilyn Nelson, the skeleton the book centers around had their identity “changed” multiple times and the person’s story was altered. Overall, there are many examples backing up why people have reason to be skeptical of the medical field and how they personally get treated by those who are supposed to help them. In Zulus by Percival Everett, the main character Alice refuses to follow the procedures of getting sterilized and the procedure to check on her pregnancy. However, she ends up receiving the pregnancy check against her will so her consent was violated. Another example is when in Home by Toni Morrison, African Americans in the community, where the main characters live, have a general fear of doctors and hospitals due to the bad experiences people have had with the medical field and have shared with others they care about as a warning. One of the characters, Cee, ignored the advice that was given to her and went to work for a doctor which seemed fine at first but then the doctor began to take advantage of her and experiment on her without her knowledge. She found other explanations for the side effects but after some time realized what was occurring but was left too weak to escape. Luckily, her brother came to her rescue. She learned the hard way not to trust doctor’s in that time period because they mistreated her due to her race and gender. Once again, in Medical Apartheid by Washington, the families of those who have fallen victim under the eye/hand of a doctor acquire a great mistrust for doctors as they continue throughout their lives.

This morning I was watching a show on Hulu called the Good Doctor and in the first episode there is a scene where the doctors are discussing how one of their patients needs surgery but they unable to proceed with it until he has signed the documents giving his informed consent. One of them wanted to have the man see a psychologist to become mentally prepared before going over the procedure and obtaining the signed documents however, her boss wanted it done right away. He did not care so much for the mental state of that patient even though it has been proven that with a better mindset, patients see better results. The boss just wanted the papers signed and viewed them as being more of a hassle than anything else. This television scene reminded me that even when these things are put into place, the person giving their informed consent should be in a mental position to fully understand what they are consenting to and what they are doing so. Doctor’s should not disrespect this process because at the end of the day, if their job is to help people then they should care about those in which they are trying to help and not just turn consent into another routine procedure. These procedures and paperwork are put in place for a reason, they’re not meant to be some obstacle that impedes a doctor’s ability to properly treat their patients.

In conclusion, the divide between past and present, hero and villain, and victim and victimizer have become complicated overtime and morphed into the views that are now collectively shared within our society. Doctors may be viewed differently by each person, but either way they still play an important role in our communities.

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