Who wrote this?
As someone who spends a substantial portion of his professional time teaching medical students, I can tell you that this kind of attitude-that physicians are gods, not mere mortals, and wield power over other human beings that no one dare question-is inculcated in them from the very beginning of medical training. It is an ugly secret of our medical training system. And the more prestigious the institutions where physicians receive their training, the more overweening is this attitude.
Anything that a physician calls a “joke” or “for the patient’s benefit” simply is that, and how dare anyone question that judgment!
Surgeons are the worst, they cut people’s fucking asses open with sharp knives, and they are basically used to functioning as dictators in the operating room. These leads to the development of attitudes which makes perfect sense in light of the practical demands of surgery. But they do not work well in other areas of life. Put a surgeon in charge of any enterprise that requires leadership through persuasion or consensus, and you are totally fucking fucked.
I know, you guys are saying, Gary Null, or Joe Mercola, or maybe the Health Ranger Mike Adams. But you would be wrong, actually this snarling little piece of anti-doctor slander came from someone within our own community. Not only that, it came from someone who teaches medical students at a major academic university. This is, of course, PhysioProf. Now, if anyone knows me, and what I write about, what I really care about is standards for arguments. As a member of the scienceblogs community, it is understandably upsetting to see a evidence-free rant, based on bigotry, from a scibling that tars a group of people that I know to be some of the most caring, the most thoughtful, intellectual, careful and conscientious people I have ever had the pleasure of working with.
What to do about this I wonder? What solution is there to this problem of such a fool in our midst, spouting such hate and nonsense at others? What can we do about someone who holds medical students and doctors in such contempt, when he himself teaches them daily?
I admit I’m torn. The rant itself is beneath contempt. It is quite simply a slander. It is a data-free attack on a wide swath of people that includes myself, my co-blogger Pal, my mother, my father, sciblings like Orac, many of the adults I knew growing up, and most of the people I interact with on a daily basis.
The incident in question involved a surgeon who during a procedure put temporary tattoos on a patient. People might think, “big freaking deal.” Well, no. This isn’t just an innocent Little Mermaid stamp on a little girl’s arm to give her a distraction from an illness or painful procedure. No. This was a rose tattoo, on an adult woman, placed in a private area (below her pantyline). It was creepy, inappropriate, and weird.
A sensible person would take this incident and say, “sheesh, what a creep, I hope he loses his license and gets taken to court.” Only a moron with an axe to grind would then use such an incident to castigate a diverse group of people as sexist villains with a god complex. For one, medicine includes many men and women (52% women in my medical class). Doctors are a varied bunch, tend to be highly educated, very thoughtful, very conscientious, and rather than ignoring patients they are specifically trained to be respectful to all patients, no matter their race, sex, class or religious beliefs.
I also can’t believe how stupid this attack is from someone in PP’s position. Only a complete moron would hazard their job on the tenuous anonymity of the internet, and insult the people he interacts with on a daily basis. I know who PP and DrugMonkey are in real life, as do many other bloggers, not because they’ve told us, but because it’s impossible to maintain a truly anonymous internet presence.
In medicine, we take attitudes like this towards students and doctors seriously, and the only reason PP gets away with this crap is because he abuses anonymity. Anonymity can be a good thing, and I hope the internet becomes a place where it can be used reliably so people can feel safe speaking honestly. But when used like PP uses it, merely to be able to say indefensible nonsense about good people, it’s just cowardice and I hold him in nothing but contempt (and have for some time). DrugMonkey is little better, and as Pal has pointed out, he knows about as much about the actual practice of medicine as he knows about selecting decent co-bloggers.
Further, I know from personal experience just how wrong this characterization is. I have never known a doctor that fits with this embarrassing caricature of a monster with a god complex. Maybe TV characters like House, or Alec Baldwin in Malice have behaved this way. I’ve seen surgeons, especially ones dealing with the high-value real estate of the brain or the chest act as dictators within the OR, sure. But after seeing what they do first hand, you’d be crazy to ask for anything less. And universally, despite this behavior under pressure they tend to be sweethearts in other contexts, and wonderful with patients. Doctors are people, and surely different specialties will attract different personalities. And within such specialties you might see a trait more commonly than elsewhere. But this kind of specious and angry generalization is far out, is based on total ignorance, and only really demonstrates PP’s personal deficiencies. I don’t know where he gets his ugly resentment for MDs, but this rant says very little about actual doctors and volumes about PP.
I believe in standards of argument. I believe that doctors are a group of people that, with rare exception, put their patients’ needs first and foremost. When they fail, like this surgeon did, they deserve to be “struck from the list” as they say in Britain. I also know that doctors don’t think they are gods, and will tell you, each and every day, how much they don’t know, how much they struggle, and fight to understand the complexities and difficulties of medicine. Medical students, if anything, have the opposite of a god complex and constantly strive to build confidence, expand their knowledge and do better each and every day because one day they will be given the enormous responsibility of caring for other human lives.
I believe PP has failed to make an argument based on anything but bigotry and hatred towards a group of people I have consistently found to be the opposite of what he describes. I believe PP has no place within our community. He also has no place within his institution teaching medical students, and I’m quite sure when they find out this is what he thinks of them, he will have to answer for this slander.