Schiavo Case: Physicians Wearing Two Hats
I have written about physicians wearing two hats on this blog previously. Physicians who have been elected to a political office may also find that they may lose thair physician's hat as they engage in the political function. I think what happened today in the Schiavo case is a perfect example of physicians discarding their academic garment of a professional doctor of medicine, ignoring facts, ethics and law and behaving as a shameful politician out to develop some political capital for themselves. Dr. Bill Frist of the Senate and Dr. Dave Weldon, representative from Florida are two of the examples. If there is something Congress needed to have fixed in the laws related to termination of life support, advance directives, durable power of attorney for health care and so on, then they should have investigated with appropriate resources without rush and if needed fix it. If there were problems, they were longstanding problems, nothing acute, nothing emergenct. But these laws have been around for years and no Congress has paid attentiono except to attempt to reinforce the laws already present with the Patient Self-Determination Act requiring hospitals to remind each patient to prepare an advance directive. (And included in the advance directive can be assigning a durable power of attorney for healthcare.) And the Sciavo case has been in judication for the past 7 years or so. Where was the congressional concern during this time? Why attempt to serve a supoena on a non-communicating patient in the last moment with threats of punishment for interfering with the supoena if this was not for political grand-standing? I think Judge Greer said it well with "The fact that you -- your committee -- decided to do something today doesn't create an emergency,"
Of course, I think it is valuable to have a physician enter politics. But the public who send the physician to Congress should be made aware before hand (informed consent) that the physician is going to think, analyze and behave in the professional manner of a physician. I think applying a little medical professionalism into politics might raise the public's view of a politician from the basement to something higher. Anyway, that is my opinion. ..Maurice.
3-19-2005 Addition to My Posting
Supporting my view about the physician two hat issue in politics
is the excellent review of Dr. Bill Frist's recent behaviors by Charles
Babington in the March 19th issue of the
Washington Post. The article describes concern by others of what I would consider Bill Frist's medical unprofessionalism when he threw off his physician's hat and now acting as a pure politician. Below is a brief excerpt. ..Maurice.
Some medical professionals questioned the appropriateness of Frist
challenging court-approved doctors who have treated Schiavo. Laurie Zoloth, director of
bioethics for the Center for Genetic Medicine at Northwestern University, said
she was surprised to hear Frist weigh in, given that he has not examined
Schiavo. "It is extremely unusual -- and by a non-neurologist, I might add,"
Zoloth said in an interview.
Were Frist rendering an official medical judgment, she said, relying on an
"amateur video" could raise liability issues. After 15 years, "there should be
no confusion about the medical data, and that's what was so surprising to me
about Dr. Frist disagreeing about her medical status," Zoloth said.