Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ethicists debate doctors who keep it personal - USATODAY.com

Have you ever sat frazzled in a doctor's office, waiting for your or your child's appointment, only to glance up and see one of those Norman Rockwell paintings of a kindly old doctor gently pressing a stethoscope against the heart of a little girl's doll?

In this age of managed health care, when personal doctoring is shoved behind the priority of filling out forms and charging co-pays, it's enough to make you throw a tongue depressor at the image.

But though those Rockwell-esque physicians are infinitely more scarce than they were a century ago, they do still exist. Some are family doctors in small towns, but others include busy emergency-room physicians and specialists who make "Best Doctors" lists and lecture at Ivy League medical schools. They are the doctors who still make house calls because it's in the best interest of the patient, not their bottom line, who say a prayer with a distraught family, who give their own blood to a sick child.

Yet some medical ethicists warn against practicing medicine too empathetically or becoming too involved in patients' lives, saying it compromises treatment and the profession as a whole. Others argue personalized care will become extinct if physicians are not able to set aside the business of doctoring and resurrect the art of medicine.

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