Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Speaking Outside My Expertise

Phone Call by James Deville
Talking to my sister this morning, I ran into one of those irritants that rubs me the wrong way from time to time... We were talking about someone my sister knows, a woman was told by her doctor that it was necessary to supplement through the night. Apparently ‘because’. Of, whatever.

Apart from the possibly actionable inaccuracy in the statement, that any licensed professional is willing to use their Professional Opinion for something so far outside their field is simply astonishing.

Now, I am willing to repeat some fairly ignorant and silly things... to quote a writer on an email list: ‘I wish my words were made of peanut butter chocolate ice cream because they’d taste good when I had to eat them.’ But, of all the times I’m going to be careful to avoid expounding on something I don’t know anything at all about, it would be when I’m wearing my Professional Hat, or asked for my expertise by a client. Obviously, I make mistakes – pass on some wives tales rather than some well-researched facts. But I concentrate on avoiding that as much as possible.

Hands up: which physicians in North America have studied, in medical school or anywhere else for more than 12 hours, normal human lactation? Oh, would that be three or five? Maybe 15? It can’t be more than 25...

Classroom by looshi

Most doctors practicing today have had no instruction or training or education of any kind regarding normal human lactation. If a doctor gets any education about breasts at all, it is anatomy and pathology, not the normal, healthy function. (That is true about the majority of medical science, by the way – pathology is very well studied, healthy function is not.)

I am possibly alone in not expecting medical practitioners to ‘know everything.’ I don’t expect a general practice physician to know a great deal about dermatology, or auto mechanics. I don’t expect any physician to know a great deal about human psychological development or roofing. I didn’t think of asking my doctor anything about nutrition the first time I was pregnant, way back at 22, but she was respectable and sane and said ‘ask a nutritionist or a dietitian, it’s not my field.’

Why don’t more doctors say that?

Perhaps a better question for this location:
  • why do patients keep asking doctors for information outside their professional expertise?
and, when they’re finished asking that (because my doctor has children who are older than mine, and I respect his philosophy, so I might have a good reason for asking his private opinion):
  • why don’t parents put the uneducated responses from doctors in the same place they put the uneducated responses of people who aren’t parents, people who parent in different ways, in-laws and other family members who did or do things differently?
stethoscope by Dr. Farouk
Maybe some day doctors will get really careful about expressing their personal opinions separate from their Professional Expertise... 

I wonder what would provoke that?

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