Physician, heal thyself: the potential crisis of conscience in Canadian medicine

What if your faith in doctors having conscience was shaken?

The Globe and Mail
Reproduced with permission

Gabrielle Horne*

“I’m really sorry,” I said, picking the magnifying glass off the floor and checking it wasn’t cracked. “I think it’s okay.”

It was my third day on the witness stand, testifying against doctors from the hospital where I still worked. I couldn’t read the tiny numbers on the document disclosing how much my colleagues were paid, and the hospital lawyer had offered it to me, to end the theatre.

“He’s just softening you up before cross-examination,” my lawyer had said with a wry smile, standing at the podium.

Afterward, I wondered why I’d apologized, in a full courtroom, to this man who had taken a wrecking ball to my life over the previous 10 years. Then it occurred to me: to apologize is a sign of a conscience.

Doctors are expected to have one. Their job is to heal the sick and save lives, and that role evokes an image and expectation of beneficence – doing only good. Doctors invest in that image when they espouse a code of conduct descended from the Hippocratic oath: “I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrongdoing.” Patients also invest in that image and expectation. When illness strikes, they must often put their lives, their confidence and their most vulnerable selves in the hands of doctors they barely know. The expectation of conscience is at the core of the medical pact.

But what if your faith in doctors having conscience was shaken? [Full text]

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.