The Patient-Consumer and His New Role

As some of you may know, I am not a caregiver. Due to this fact I try not to be too critical of the way caregivers act and perform their duties. This is not to say that at times I do not offer some suggestions based upon the historical practice of medicine and some theological-ethical considerations.

However, there is a somewhat recent truth about medicine that allows for harsher criticism. For, as much as it dismays me to say so, medical practice has become a consumer-driven vocation.

That’s right, I said it. I will give you a moment to take it in…

I know, I know, you are probably the exception to the rule.

I know it hurts.

I do not make this observation with malignant intent, but instead with the desire to be realistic about the profession as it is today.

Take a long hard look at what is going on in the medical profession…

From the last couple of weeks of my fellow bloggers’ blogs: making humans better/improving the human condition outside of need, fascinating new pharmaceuticals and medical procedures, and how medical technology has replaced the patient as the focus of medical practice. (I understand these are not proofs per se)

What we can see in this smattering of ideas is by and large what we are forced to confront as “bioethicists” of the day. Sure medicine is (was) about curing, but we are humans; so our (perhaps, darkest) desires have shaped the broadening applications of ‘helpful’ technologies. This, in part, has exploded the marketability of medical services and products.

The reality is we are no longer fighting to keep medicine from becoming consumer-driven—it is. And, it is most likely going to stay that way. However, this also means that consumers can redirect the marketplace of medicine.

Doctors do have a voice and power to fight it. But just like any product/service provider in the marketplace, they are, to a point, going to oblige the demands of the consumer. This is not necessarily seen in every transaction between doctor and patient (i.e. a bunion removal). It is seen, however, in the overall trends of the market itself.

And frankly, for too long we have solely concentrated on how doctors can try to take back the Hippocratic tradition. As consumers in the marketplace of medicine we have been given a powerful voice.

We ought to be informed about procedures, professionals and pharmaceuticals. We should feel free to call into question the guiding values of the professionals from whom we receive services.

I know it may seem paradoxical, but we as patient-consumers should try to preserve the founding principles of medicine by not reaching beyond the precipice of curing. We can choose with scrutiny according to the values of the Hippocratic tradition that once so proudly guided medicine.



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