It seems like a harsh statement, but I deeply believe that medical arrogance is one of the biggest sicknesses of the 21st century. It wasn’t too long ago that doctors often relied on treatments such as lobotomies and insulin shock therapy to treat mental illnesses, despite evidence that these treatments were often ineffective and harmful. This was due to a belief in the superiority of these treatments and a lack of understanding of the underlying causes of mental illness. As a woman, it pains me when I read about the medical neglect and harsh treatments that were customary for women back in the day. For many centuries, women’s health was often dismissed and medical professionals did not take women’s complaints seriously. This was partly due to a belief in the superiority of male anatomy and the assumption that women’s complaints were simply complaints. Although much of this has changed, we still have a long way to go.
Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis’s Story
To understand a little more of what I mean by medical arrogance, let’s take a trip back in history and learn about Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor who lived in the mid-19th century. He worked at a maternity clinic in Vienna, Austria, where he noticed that mothers who gave birth with the help of midwives had much lower death rates from childbed fever than mothers who delivered with the help of medical students. Semmelweis realized that the medical students were not washing their hands after performing autopsies on patients who had died from infectious diseases and were thus spreading germs to the mothers they assisted in childbirth.
Semmelweis introduced a strict hand-washing protocol, and the death rate at the clinic dropped dramatically. Despite these results, his ideas were met with resistance and ridicule by the medical community and the public. At the time, the idea of germs causing disease was not widely accepted, and many doctors saw Semmelweis’s ideas as a threat to their own authority. They rejected his findings and criticized him for not having a scientific explanation for his observations and because it made them look like they were the cause of childbed fever in women. As a result, Semmelweis’s ideas were not widely adopted, and he was eventually forced to resign from his position at the clinic. It was only many years later, after the work of Louis Pasteur and others, that the idea of germs causing disease became widely accepted.
Semmelweis was a victim of medical arrogance, a sickness of the will and mind that still permeates prestigious schools. hospitals and medical practices today.
Medical arrogance, or the belief that one’s own opinions and practices are superior and should not be questioned, can have dangerous consequences. In the case of Ignaz Semmelweis, medical arrogance prevented doctors from accepting and implementing his hand-washing theory, leading to the unnecessary spread of disease and death. Some reasons why medical arrogance can be dangerous include the following:
- Resistance to change: Medical arrogance often leads to resistance to new ideas and practices, even if they have been proven to be effective. In Semmelweis’s case, doctors were resistant to the idea of washing their hands because it challenged their established beliefs and practices.
- Delay in adopting new advancements: When medical professionals are arrogant, they may dismiss new advancements and technologies, leading to a delay in adopting and implementing these advancements.
- Patient harm: Medical arrogance can lead to harm to patients if doctors refuse to consider new treatments or diagnostic techniques that may be more effective.
- Inefficient use of resources: Medical arrogance can result in the inefficient use of resources if healthcare providers continue to use outdated methods, ineffective medicines, and technologies instead of adopting new ones or using those with a proven history of efficiency.
- Damage to reputation: When medical professionals display arrogance, they risk damaging the reputation of the entire medical community. This can lead to decreased trust in the medical system, which can negatively impact public health. I believe we are experiencing this like never before.
Please, if you are a medical professional, researcher, or work in public health, don’t let medical arrogance control the work you do. Set aside any pride, ego, and god-like tendencies and work hard to remain open-minded. Remember that no matter how much you know, there is still more to learn. Don’t discredit what your patients tell you. Don’t make them feel like they are crazy when they present with symptomatology that you cannot understand. Instead, think outside of the box, listen to your patients, and don’t be afraid to go against the narrative when you know deep down that it is the right thing to do. After all, one of the main goals for anyone in healthcare should be to provide the best care to all patients.
Tips To Avoid Medical Arrogance & Treat Patients Better
If you’re a doctor or someone who works in the medical field, what can be done to treat patients better and avoid medical arrogance? Here are a few tips:
- Active Listening & Asking the Right Questions: Encourage doctors to listen to patients’ concerns and take the time to fully understand their perspective. Ask detailed questions about their home, work, and or school life. Ask about their environment, and don’t dismiss it as a potential cause for illness.
- Empathy: Encourage empathy and understanding for the patient’s situation and emotions.
- Collaboration: Encourage doctors to work as a team with other healthcare professionals, and involve patients in decision-making.
- Continuous education: Encourage ongoing education to stay up to date with best practices to avoid complacency.
- Cultural competence: Ensure that doctors are culturally competent and aware of their own biases, and understand how culture affects health beliefs and practices.
- Respect for autonomy: Encourage doctors to respect patients’ autonomy and to involve them in their own care.
- Clear communication: Encourage clear, concise and effective communication with patients, including discussing test results, treatment options and prognoses.
- Humility: Encourage humility, recognizing that medicine is not an exact science and that there is always room for learning and improvement. Accept that patients can indeed teach a doctor something new or bring awareness to a condition that isn’t well understood by the doctor.
- Emphasize patient safety: Place a strong emphasis on patient safety and prioritize reducing errors and adverse events.
- Measure and evaluate: Regularly evaluate and measure patient satisfaction, feedback, and experiences to identify areas for improvement and enhance patient care.
By prioritizing these qualities and continuously seeking to improve, doctors can provide the highest standard of care, avoid medical arrogance and build strong, trust-based relationships with their patients.
Chemical Free Gal
I agree, dear lady. My grandfather was a surgeon from Hungary, and he always said “American doctors don’t read” (the latest news/research etc. 😛
So true. My dad wasn’t American and he would say the same thing. He always traveled overseas for his medical check-ups too.