Study Reveals: Doctors Are Stupid

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Writing in The New Yorker, physician Jerome Groopman muses on the fallibility of his fellow M.D.'s:

Students are still expected to assimilate large amounts of basic science and apply that knowledge as they are taught practical aspects of patient care. And young physicians still learn largely by observing more senior members of their field. ("See one, do one, teach one" remains a guiding maxim at medical schools.) This approach produces confident and able physicians. Yet the ideal it implies, of the doctor as a dispassionate and rational actor, is misguided. As Tversky and Kahneman and other cognitive psychologists have shown, when people are confronted with uncertainty—the situation of every doctor attempting to diagnose a patient—they are susceptible to unconscious emotions and personal biases, and are more likely to make cognitive errors.

Groopman seems to favor incorporating "an awareness of heuristics and their liabilities" into physician training, but he hasn't fully grokked the implications of his own ignorance. Experts of all kinds tend to be more prone to error than the average person expects them to be. Medicine isn't special here, but it matters more when the pros in question are gatekeepers. Patients don't just seek advice; they seek permission. Groopman's revelation–that doctors are in fact human–should at least call into question the shamanic authority they're invested with.

Whole thing here.

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  1. Don’t know if doctors are stupid but in my own little world I find many of them lacking even a basic instinctual level of business acumen. And they tend to be elitist by nature, a lethal yet obnoxious pairing.

  2. I hate it when physicians insist on using the title “Dr” in every aspect of their life. It’s on their credit cards, they use it when leaving messages regarding personal matters, they use it when ordering pizzas ferchrissake!

    I cannot post even one comment today that is relevant to a topic. I am sorry.

  3. It says on your chart you’re fucked up, you talk like a fag, and your shit’s all retarded.

  4. “I hate it when physicians insist on using the title “Dr” in every aspect of their life. It’s on their credit cards, they use it when leaving messages regarding personal matters, they use it when ordering pizzas ferchrissake!”

    I know what you mean, man. On a similar note, I work at a military hospital, and often I’ll get 90 year old guys calling in saying “This is Sergeant/Major/Colonel Jones.” And I just want to say, “Sir, you’ve been retired since the Civil War. Give it up.”

    But I don’t, I’m rather fond of my stripes.

  5. Doctors are not gods!!

    But…but…that still means Biologist and Therou are always right? Right?

    I mean god forbid their public funding might be scrutinized by elected officials.

  6. I hate it when physicians insist on using the title “Dr” in every aspect of their life.

    When my wife started practicing she didn’t want to be one of those folks, so she would just go by her first name. Didn’t work out so well for her. She looks 19 and everyone thought she was a nurse. It was especially bad at the VA; misogynistic old pricks and marriage proposals. Forcing the Dr. thing avoids a lot of bullshit.

  7. I insist on using the title Esquire. Is this douchey?

  8. When my wife started practicing…Forcing the Dr. thing avoids a lot of bullshit.

    That’s a little different for a person to go by their title at work than it is to use their job title at Chuck E Cheese. Does your wife have “Dr.” on her credit card? Do you Dr. pigwiggle?

  9. Does your wife have “Dr.” on her credit card? Do you Dr. pigwiggle?

    Hmmm … probably should. About the only way I’m going to get anyone to use my title.

  10. thanks for the confidence, joshua. However, I don’t have a Ph.D. (yet), and never have claimed to possess one.

    I’ll let you know when to start calling me “dr. biologist”, don’t worry.

  11. My doctor goes by Julie Ann, which is her actual name. She’s young enough to be Kerry Howley’s daughter but she is also the best doctor I’ve ever run across. Except that crazy talk about one glass of cab per day being enough I mean.

  12. I’m OK with MDs, Osteopaths, Dentists, Hell even Veterinarians using the title whenever they wish.
    If you can’t write a prescription for schedule II/III narcotics I don’t give a fuck how much education you have…You are NOT a Doctor.

  13. I hate it when physicians insist on using the title “Dr” in every aspect of their life.

    I hate it that in every medical office across the land every employee believes that the boss’ first name is Dr.

    Not THE Doctor. Just Doctor.

    Oh, see if Doctor wants that X-ray taken.

  14. “Medicine isn’t special here, but it matters more when the pros in question are gatekeepers. Patients don’t just seek advice; they seek permission. Groopman’s revelation–that doctors are in fact human–should at least call into question the shamanic authority they’re invested with.”

    How true.

  15. I’m OK with MDs, Osteopaths, Dentists, Hell even Veterinarians using the title whenever they wish.
    If you can’t write a prescription for schedule II/III narcotics I don’t give a fuck how much education you have…You are NOT a Doctor.

    Someone has their priorities in order.

    Veterinarians can prescribe narcotics?

  16. Damn Straight they can
    careful when converting from horse to human dosage. Shetland pony may be OK but a Percheron or Clydesdale dose could kill ya.

  17. I’m all in favor of weakening gatekeepers. Amen to everything you said, Kerry.

    And joshua, I’ve never suggested I should be above scrutiny by worthy people. I only consider myself above scrutiny by the uninformed masses, you know, guys like yourself 🙂

    Kidding! Kidding! I swear I didn’t mean it!

  18. Then there’s “my doctor.” You get this from receptionists a lot. I suspect that the possessiveness here is not exclusively professional.

  19. The eye doc said I then wash my my contacts in an enzyme solution once a week, explaining to clean off the build up from the daily solution.

    To which I explained, yeah, like changing laundry detergent or toothpaste. To which his face assumed the idiot expression as he said ‘oh, yeah. i hadn’t thought of it that way.’

  20. Take the natural vitamins and supplements, never have a mirror directly facing your bed, drink on glass of lightly salted warm water every morning, and wear a cooper bracelet. Do these things and you’ll never need a doctor.

  21. You mean I’ve been eating an apple a day all these years and I was wasting my money?

  22. btw, what about magnets? You’re supposed to wear magnets.

  23. This article clearly demonstrates that physicians are fallible. What is urgently needed is tougher licensing regulations, increased federal supervision of training and practice, and not least, radically enhanced NSA surveillance of doctor-to patient communication and hospital records.

  24. “surveillance of doctor to patient communication”

    Don’t laugh, some docs in Penna. are reported video taping sessions with patients where they explain diagnosis/prognosis so, if later sued,
    they have proof they explained the success/failure rates of certain procedures.
    Supposedly this cuts down a lot of malpractice exposure where patient claims the doctor never warned them of the potential dangers of a procedure. Patients can always say they didn’t understand the implications of the fine print on a release form they signed, but it is much harder to dispute them listening to the doctor lay out the possible outcomes and verbally agreeing to go ahead.

  25. Anyone who believes their doctor can examine them and accurately diagnose them without a description of the symptons from the person experiencing those symtpoms (AKA the patient) deserves whatever malpractice is visited upon them.

    I’m waiting for joe to roll in and explain why experts – you know, like doctors – are the ones best suited to making personal decisions for us all. Doctors should ADVISE patients, and patients should make the decision based on their personal preferences regarding longevity, relative health, and quality of life. Just like experts should ADVISE people regarding land use, but not be allowed to make the final decision.

    1. Just like corrupt doctors always do, “it’s the patients fault”. These are instances in which patients have explained their symptoms just fine, that is clearly not the problem here.

      If the doctors need more details, they can ask, yeah its a rough job but tough **** we pay them a hundred thousand a year for it. Patients have no way of knowing that they should include the fact that they ate a banana the night before a certain rash keeps appearing, and the doctor needs to actually get off his lazy ***, look at the rash, do some tests, and at LEAST tell the patient its “an allergy” and actually ASK the patient something like “could you watch your diet from now on and memorize what you eat”, etc.

      The good doctors are usually the ones who treat their patents like human beings (which they are), thus saving lives. The type of doctors you’re talking about, the bureaucratic kind, are the kind who take thousands of innocent lives every year by being mean and cold to patients who need their help in the name of “professionalism”.

      1. PS This, instead of YOUR kind of doctor, the kind that has this attitude of ignoring serious problems, WILLFULLY causing human beings death (these are DOCTORS, they know what they’re doing) because of bureaucratic technicalities. Most of the time its some minor “rule” that noone even cares about, I”m not even talking about ones that could end up risking the doctors’ job or causing him a lawsuit, I mean being a dick just to be a dick.

        Like when a self-injurer comes in and they stitch her or him up with no anethetic. WTF??? YOU CAN’T SEW PEOPLE UP WITH NO ANESTETIC IN 2010!!! What a bunch of idiots! Any time one of these patients dies and the doctors knows he or she could have prevented it, that doctor should be put in prison for life or executed!

        This happens all the time, and if you don’t believe me go to a crappier hospital and you’ll see.

  26. Just heard a doctor from Saskatoon Saskatchewan (this time a City hospital doctor) saying the vein repair for MS is not a good idea. Some of these doctors should have their licences pulled for being just plain stupid. Remember the guy who said the world was round or the one that claimed the sun to be our center, it was doctors that didn’t like those ideas iether.

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