Monday, February 7, 2011

A Dose of Bedside Manner

Yet another trip to HRH's doctor today. After the customary one hour wait (thankfully it wasn't as long as last time) we were allowed into the eminent pediatrician's office. Our time slot was to be shared with another family. Apparently at this particular doctor's clinic two patients go into the tiny room at one time.

If you are second in line then you get to hear all about and sit through the first child's illness description, examination and prescription dispensation. All the while trying to scrunch up in a corner and seem as unobtrusive as possible. A difficult task to accomplish when accompanied by a sick and whiny 5 year old who wants to know 'when will it be my turn?' every few seconds.

When it was our turn today, we were told to come in along with a couple who had a baby with them, who looked to be a few months old. While sitting and trying to keep HRH quiet on one couch, the doctor informed the baby's parents about how sad he was to tell them this but their child was brain damaged since complications at the time of the child's birth; he had not grown in the past few months; was not doing any of the things a child his age ought to be doing and how it was with great sadness he had to say the damage was irreversible. All this while my husband and I sat shocked and horrified that the doctor would deliver such an awful diagnosis in front of us, with no sensitivity to at least give that family the time and space to digest such terrible news in private.

The only explanation I can think of in having two patients in the room at the same time is that the doctor's time is so precious that he cannot waste the minute or two one patient leaving and another entering, would take.

It is understandable that doctors do need to be less emotionally involved in order to be able to cope with the pain and misery they see and deal with every day. However to be so insensitive as to not even think it necessary to give a patient the privacy he/she needs or deserves (forget about doctor-patient confidentiality), is horrifying to say the least. Just as children need to be taught manners, perhaps doctors should be instructed in bedside manner too.

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