This week's episode of White Coat, Black Art is all about patients who fire their doctor - how they do it and why they do it. A number of you reacted to my interview with Drs. John Axler and Donna Henrikson in which they agreed with my statement that most patients can't tell the difference between good and lousy medical care. Some of you were quite offended that I would make such a statement. I'm quite happy to concede that some patients may know quite well when they're receiving poor medical care. But I stand firmly behind the statement that the majority do not know the difference. As Dr. John Axler, put it quite well I think, patients prize availablity and affability before ability. The tenor of some of your complaints makes me want to remind you of the mission of White Coat, Black Art.
I thought I'd quote from the opening words that I spoke on our debut episode back in 2007:
"This is White Coat, Black Art, where we pull back the curtain, and let you into the world of medicine, from my side of the gurney."
The signature of the show is to present the unvarnished, unpackaged comments of health professionals who work on the front lines of health care. Then, we let you decide whether you like what you've heard or not. Drs. John Axler, Donna Henrikson and Paul Freedman appeared on that debut episode of White Coat Black Art, just as the were on this week's show about patients who give their doctor the pink slip. They were as candid this week as they were on that first episode four years ago.
It is a recurring theme on my side of the gurney that some patients love you even in situations in which you don't feel you did your level best, while others give you the heave-ho even though you believe you went above and beyond the call of duty. Now, you know. And what you do with that information is up to you.
A wise person who works at the CBC once told me that the show exists between two pillars. One is anger. The other is understanding. White Coat, Black Art is in the sweet spot when it sets a course beween the two. You've told me you're angry about what I said and what Drs. Axler and Henrikson agreed with. Understanding begins with the knowledge that MDs and other health professionals - like the rest of us - feel stung when we try hard and are found wanting. We go home ruminating about patients and especially about patients who have taken a turn for the worse. We're human, like you. We have expectations of patients just as you have expectations of health care professionals.
And, like you, we don't like getting fired.