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The heart of clinical medicine is the doctor-patient relationship. When we are ill, we want someone we can look up to - someone whom we can trust. We want a doctor who understands our problems - not just the medical disease we have, but someone who has insights into our personal fears  and worries as a human being as well. Being ill can be a lonely journey, and we want someone  to hold our hand and help us to get better. We need to be able to trust that our personal physician has our best interests at heart - that he will look after us, and will do whatever is needed in order to help us get better.

In the past, trust in the doctor was something which was taken for granted.

Doctors were respected professionals, and it was understood that a doctor could do whatever was needed in order to help you get better. The standard image of the family doctor was a hardworking professional who would get up at 2 am, or who would spend all night holding the patient's hand , in order to  keep a close eye on him to make sure he was getting better. People still have fond memories of what the doctor used to be like. Unfortunately, the only place we can see this kind of doctor today seems to be  in old movies.

Today, very few patients respect their doctor, and as far as the medical profession goes, it clearly doesn't command any respect at all.

We've lost faith in our doctors, and there are many reasons for this. It's true that some doctors are to blame, but the tragedy seems to be that whenever one doctor does something wrong, we extrapolate, from this aberration, and conclude that all doctors are crooked. This is the harm which the media does to the entire medical profession when it highlights the few black sheep in the profession. Sadly, good doctors also end up being tarred with the same brush.

The media loves to bash doctors. This is because we put so much faith in them, that when this trust is betrayed, we are angry and we want to punish these doctors with a vengeance.  This is quite ironic because we never seem to have that same degree of anger against crooked lawyers, or crooked engineers, for example.

Thus, the media will write about crooked bank managers, but this is not something which raises as many  hackles, or causes as much ire. Why is there so much disproportionate unhappiness with doctors?  After all, they are human too - why should we expect them to behave like angels ?

This is because the heart of healthcare is the patient's personal relationship with the doctor. When a doctor takes advantage of that relationship, he betrays the trust which the patient places in him, and we want to punish him for this . In our heads and hearts, medicine is thought to be a noble profession. When we find that we can't trust doctors anymore, it shakes our faith and belief in all of humanity, not just the medical profession. After all, if you can't trust your doctor, whom can you trust?

The good news is that there are lots of trust worthy doctors - but you do need to spend some time and energy in order to find them. Look for a doctor who respects you, and whom you respect. This is a two way relationship, and you need to find someone who is open and transparent, and is willing to share information with you -  a doctor who has both a head and a heart. A good doctor does not try to cover up when he does not know what's happening, and will share both medical knowledge as well as medical ignorance with you. He  will not abandon you, no matter how serious your illness, and even if he cannot cure or treat you, he will be there to hold your hand.


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