Tuesday, April 24, 2007

An Answer to Doctors Behaving Badly

Below is a letter I sent in response to a copy of a policy I received from one of the hospitals where I work:

Dear Sam:

Congratulations on your ascent to the presidency of the medical staff. While any interest I might have had in the administrative aspects of modern medicine was extinguished by my four years as chairman of the radiology department, I salute those who heed the call to medical staff leadership, however thankless and poorly remunerated the job may be.

I am responding to your memo of April 18 requesting comment on the draft Medical Staff Code of Conduct Policy. As I read through this substantial document of eight pages, plus the additional page covering the Retaliation and Retribution Policy, I was struck by the complexity of our efforts to regulate human behavior. Perhaps this is necessary, given the complexity of human beings. I think it’s unlikely these policies will be widely read, particularly by those most likely to violate the standards contained therein. At least they won’t be read until it’s too late and the offenders are called on the carpet. I’d like to suggest that instead we distribute to all members of the medical staff a single sheet of paper bearing a single statement:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Each member of the medical staff would be required to return a signed copy of this document to be placed in his or her file as an indication that he or she read this sentence, and that he or she understands there will be consequences if this admonition is ignored. It may be somewhat controversial using this principle as a medical staff policy, since it was uttered by Jesus. However, since we work at a Catholic institution, we may be able to pull it off. We could produce a more ecumenical version if necessary. For instance, Buddha said, “Consider others as yourself.” Confucius said, “What you do not wish upon yourself, extend not to others.” Passages in the Koran, the Torah, and the Bhagavad Gita all contain similar sentiments. Even atheists would have trouble mounting an argument against this principle. We wouldn’t have to tell them it comes from the Bible, unless corporate counsel feels full disclosure is required.

Thank you for considering this proposal.

Yours truly,



David A. Cory, M.D.

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