Why Doctors Sometimes Lie
A few years ago, a prestigious medical school’s associate professor got shocked from learning that he will be forcefully removed from his post as stated by the US health care company. The hugest HMO located in the east coast never gave him any reason why they asked him to leave his post, however he knew for a fact that his public disparages against HMOs was what paved the way for his removal.
He was constantly criticizing the fact that these HMOs, along with others who only go for profit and undermines the care the patients badly need by even rewarding physicians who decline the needed care and also by making them sign gag clauses stipulated in every standard contract by this HMO.
The contract is very particular in making sure that the doctor will not pursue any action or communication that will turn away any potential or current enrollees, their superiors, their company union groups or the extent of the coverage and that all these things must be kept in paramount confidentiality. To make it shorter, a physician can be kicked out once it is found that he tells a patient something that the HMO doesn’t agree with.
In the current health care climate, where maximizing profit seems to be the bottom line, such HMO policies are preventing physicians from giving patients information about their diagnoses, prognoses and treatment options. Just take a look at these hypothetical scenarios of what may be as these doctors are gagged.
In the mammogram results of a 49-year-old woman, a mysterious shadow appears. To see if the troubling result was just a machine error, not a cancerous mass, the doctor wants to order another test for the woman. The predicament here is that the HMO will not pay for it.
Advising the patient to pay for a second mammogram herself could be a sign of criticism against the quality of care her HMO provides. To cut it short, the patient is advised by his doctor to be back for another check-up after six months if the woman will be found positive of breast cancer, the six months would be critical for her.
An action should be made to a 60-year-old man to lessen an obstruction caused an enlarged prostate. Less blood loss, less pain, risk of infection or impotence are the advantages of the new laser technique that the man’s surgeon is considering to use on him.
But then it is sad that it is only when the patient goes through a riskier invasive operation can he get benefits from the HMO. The surgeon could be fired if he insists to his patient to undergo the new surgery and persuade in order to ask permission from the HMO.
A 35-year-old woman is currently facing sever bouts of depression. Her doctor would like to prescribe a specific brand of medication that has few side effects and no risk of death from a self administered overdose.
But the hard fact is that the HMO has agreed to push a drug that has great side effects and risk of death from excess dosage. Her doctor is planning to suggest to her to buy the better product alone. But it is a sad truth that his contract prevents him from saying a word. A patient who is well informed is the only one who can make good decisions for his health.
Amid the complex rapid advancements in the medical field, many patients still look on to their doctors to explain these medical information. If physicians cannot speak honestly with patients, the latter can’t hope to control their health care fates. Given this kind of scenario, it is certainly not wise for the patients to hang on to what their doctors are telling them.
A ballot initiative undertaken by California’s nurses associations and consumer watchdog association will lead to the end of these gag orders. With the effort of professional groups, legislation or education, patient victimized by HMOs can now consult their doctors.
Many medical practitioners must learn to be like this brave man who although sacked from his work, was able to reveal the unfair practices done by HMOs. After crossing out the gag clause in his contract, he sent it back to the health care company.
HMO gag orders contradict the fundamental tenet of medicine’s Hippocratic Oath which says that a physician will prescribe for the good of his patients according to his ability and his judgment and never do harm to anyone. How can these doctors even think of going into another oath that endangers his patients?
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