Medscape survey challenges physicians to walk the ethical tightrope


A Medscape survey from WebMD propped 24,000 physicians atop a figurative moral tightrope and ogled every doctor’s dip and sway as they answered to some of healthcare’s high-wire ethical dilemmas regarding patient-physician conduct.

[See also: Mayo clinic study shows physician burnout at new Fahrenheit ]

The survey’s verdict? Not all doc’s topple to the same side of the mat when faced with issues such as end-of-life care, physician performance, abortion, romantic relationships with patients, malpractice, insurance, patient communication and patient consent. What’s more, a major perpetrator of this physician divide happens to also be one of the industry’s most cherished champions — technology.

"The increasing number of conflicting forces makes ethical decisions tougher and more wrenching for physicians," said Leslie Kane, MA, executive editor of Medscape Business of Medicine, in a news release. "Technological advances, new regulations, and more pressure to control costs all fight with the doctors' desire to give patients the best possible care. Some ethical issues are life-and-death struggles, and doctors take them strongly to heart."

"Armed with technology that can keep many terminally ill patients alive for months and years, doctors today face an extremely complicated decision that is often compounded by the wishes of family members," Kane continued. "Despite the complexity of these dilemmas, our survey revealed that doctors feel a significant amount of compassion for their patients -- even if that might lead them to consider actions that may risk their medical license."

[See also: Earlier end-of-life discussions lead to less aggressive care later on]

Some of the most compelling findings from the survey include:

Data and information from the "Medscape 2012 Ethics Report: Physicians Top Ethical Dilemmas." Presentation by PhysBizTech.

Data and information from the "Medscape 2012 Ethics Report: Physicians Top Ethical Dilemmas." Presentation by PhysBizTech.

Data and information from the "Medscape 2012 Ethics Report: Physicians Top Ethical Dilemmas." Presentation by PhysBizTech.

Additionally:

  • When asked if a patient who is "nonadherent" or "overuses" resources should be dismissed, 32 percent of respondents responded "yes," 33 percent said "no" and 36 percent said "it depends."
  • When asked if they would give life-sustaining therapy if they believe it to be futile, 35 percent said "yes," 24 percent said "no" and 41 percent said "it depends."
  • When asked if they would inform a patient if they knew the patient was scheduled to have a procedure done by another physician whose skill was known to be substandard, 47 percent said “yes,” 16 percent said “no” and 37 percent said “it depends.”

Find the survey results in their entirety here.

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