In a recent article in the New Yorker, physician Atul Gawande detailed how badly the American health-care system deals with physician error; the system, he contended, serves neither the patient nor the physician very well. But what can be done?
The first national, in-depth study of health services provided by religious communities is being undertaken by the National Council of Churches. The project will survey more than 100,000 Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations to determine the level of health care education, delivery and advocacy being offered.
Martha was blind until four years ago, when Medicaid paid for her to have a corneal transplant. For the first time in her life she could see. Now she has a job. But with recent cuts in funding, Martha has lost her Medicaid. She can no longer afford the antirejection medicine she must take daily because of her transplant. And without the medicine she will slowly go blind.
Both doctors and patients are demoralized these days, says Arthur Frank, though neither group is aware of what the other is experiencing. Doctors are suffering discouragement and alienation instead of enjoying the hope and human connection that lured them to the profession.
The Terri Schiavo case stirred much moral controversy over what constitutes ordinary care for the dying and what respect we should show for the wishes of the dying. These are serious matters, not discussed often enough. But there are other important moral and medical issues that were widely ignored in the debate.
Your relationship with your doctor might be more complicated than you ever imagined. Financial conflicts of interest abound among physicians, researchers, insurance companies, professional societies, university medical centers, editorial boards, government agencies and the pharmaceutical industry.