Bioethics Discussion Blog: Is Being A Modest Doctor a Virtue and a Benefit for Their Patients?

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Is Being A Modest Doctor a Virtue and a Benefit for Their Patients?

What is modesty? Modesty can be defined as reserve or propriety in speech, dress or behavior; lack of pretentiousness, simplicity. If a doctor demonstrated modesty, would that be a virtue? Is that something that patients would want in their doctor?

Would you want the doctor to tell you as a patient “you are mistaken if you think I know everything about your illness and I don’t want to pretend that I do, so I must do a little research first before we talk about treatment”? Is such a response open and frank and comforting to the patient or would the patient feel more comfortable with some comment by the same doctor but which is much less reserved and less intellectually modest such as “I have been trained to decide on illnesses like yours and based on my educated guess, I would begin the following treatment”? Which would be a benefit for the patient?

How about the physician who advertises in the local newspaper or has an ad on television (as some specialists do) and even presenting example patients on TV? Or simply the signage outside the office: should the sign give only the name and specialty of the doctor or should it be more descriptive with noteworthy other degrees, affiliations and rewards written there? Do patients pay attention to this advertising and what is the reaction? Should a doctor advertise to patients his or her positive reputation in the medical community?

What about the appearance of the doctor? Should the clothing and dress be modest or show professional success.. maybe an expensive ring on the finger. For a woman physician, how much and what kind of makeup or hairdo would be appropriate and acceptable by the patient? Would excesses with regard to appearance make a difference to patients?

And finally, should the physician’s own personal issues regarding their own bodily modesty affect how they perform a physical examination or procedure on a patient? And do you think it does? Many questions..any answers? ..Maurice.

4 Comments:

At Saturday, February 23, 2008 5:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, that is a lot of territory. Personally, I find comfort in the fact that my PCP is so comfortable in referring me to specialist. He has sent me to a urologist, a dermotologist, and a colorectal center. He has told me while he feels he has an understanding of what the problems are, he thinks I would feel more comfortable with a specialist confirming his diagnosis and as long as I was there he would be fine with them doing the procedure if I wanted them to. It tells me he has my total welfare, physical and emotional, at the upper most of his concerns....I so appreciate that and as a result place a lot of trust in him...much more so than if he tried to act like he knew it all or was resentful of bringing others into the scenerio.

For his appearence when I see him professionally he is always in the traditional dress pants, leather shoes, and white smock. I would be fine if he was in khaki's and dress shirt, anything that indicated a professional mentality, if he came in in sweat pants, flip flops, and a FU T-shirt I would be concerned as it would indicate to me he was not focused or putting the concern he should in the situation. His dress says, I take your trust and your welfare seriously.

For the female provider, while I might not question ability, a female Dr. who was putting a lot of effort in make up, etc would make me feel uncomfortable. While I can not tell you exactly why, it might be a little taking it to a personal level vs professional, or it might be is simply makes it look like they are not focused on the patient...though I think the first is more the case....I am already uncomfortable with female providers in intimate exams...I think them trying to look more attractive may increase this feeling for me....though I would also be uncomfortable if my Dr. was showing up in a $1,000 armani, rolex, and diamond rings, I guess I might feel like he was mainly in it for the money. jd

The Dr.'s modesty comes into play regardless. If he has no personal modesty, I would not want him to ignore mine, likewise he he/she were extremely modest, I would expect them to put their personal concerns aside and give me the proper physical. Providers tell us all the time they are focused soley on our welfare, if we are to believe it, they have to deliver it regardless of thier personal feelings.

 
At Sunday, February 24, 2008 4:15:00 AM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

In recent decades, since the medical profession has tended to look away from paternalism and to focus on patient autonomy, there has been more intellectual modesty expressed to patients. The question is whether that is what the patient really wants and expects when they are sick and go to a doctor for treatment. ..Maurice.

 
At Sunday, February 24, 2008 10:34:00 AM, Anonymous bob koepp said...

Being modest, humble, non-ostentatious, unpretentious -- I think these are all personality traits that help physicians to establish good therapeutic relationships with their patients. Intellectual modesty, if that means being honest about what one does and doesn't know (so, a facet of unpretentiousness?), is, I think, essential. Prideful errors the hardest sort to forgive.

 
At Thursday, February 28, 2008 8:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You do bring up a lot of interesting questions here. While I was reading your post I recall the how car companies like GM would make "doctors" model of vehicles in the past. These would be vehicles like Oldsmobiles or Buicks that looked very conservative on the outside but had all the options available to the top of line Caddillacs. This way a doctor could show modesty in wealth while still enjoying the financial fruits of above middle class pay.

As for a doctor's bodily modesty. I've always felt that a doctor who cannot feel comfortable nude in front of another doctor of the opposite sex should not be examining patients of the opposite sex themselves. This is because the reason that that particular doctor may have might be the same reason a patient may not want to go to them. Example 1) if a doctor doesn't want a fellow doctor to see them nude for fear of having their privates being discussed behind their backs means that doctor probably does the same to their patients. Example 2) if a doctor, particularly a female, does like the fact that a male doctor will exhibit "power" over her during the examination tells me that she feels "empowered" while examining male patients. This is not something many male patients would want in a physician as they go to doctors to get medical help and cures, not to have someone make a feminist statement with their bodies and therefor be used as 'payback' for 'years of oppression'.
I always find it interesting when a male ob/gyn or female urologist exhibits this behaviour as it makes them seem highly hypocritical as well.
The problem with a doctor's bodily modesty is that they don't go around advertising it. It would be useful to know though. If i'm getting treatment for something that requires an intimate examination and I am asked if some medical students can observe, I would probably not allow it knowing that particular medical student wouldn't allow an extra set of eyes on an intimate examination of their own body.


TS

 

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