Patients place a lot of trust in their doctors. They expect them to accurately identify medical conditions and only give them a clean bill of health if the evidence warrants it.
But, as many people know from experience, that doesn’t always happen. Doctors will sometimes tell you that you’re sick when you’re not, and ignore blatant problems even when you are seriously ill.
In the past, people trusted their doctors without a second thought. They believed that their training and background gave them all of the tools that they needed to provide accurate diagnoses and treatments.
However, thanks to the changing culture, this is no longer the case. Patients increasingly see themselves as their doctor’s equals, and are becoming less trusting of their medical recommendations.
Medical malpractice attorneys regularly see cases where doctors have made diagnostic mistakes. These take one of two forms. Either the doctor fails to diagnose a condition that’s present, or they diagnose a condition that isn’t there.
Both types of diagnostic mistakes can be potentially harmful. Failing to identify cancer on an X-ray, for instance, can mean that the patient goes without life-saving care, putting their life at risk.
Similarly, telling a patient that they have cancer when they don’t can also lead to all kinds of harm. For instance, they may receive unnecessary treatment. And they may develop health anxiety, believing themselves to be far sicker than they actually are.
The Difficulty Of Judging
While these mistakes are real, it is still enormously challenging for laypeople to judge the competency of doctors (or any other experienced professional for that matter). The average person still depends on their physician to make calls about what types of medications or treatments they should receive.
For the most part, patients don’t think logically about the quality of the doctor before them. In many cases, the justifications for liking or disliking a medical professional are poorly thought through.
For instance, somebody who has never had any issues with their teeth may love their dentist. They may say something like “I’ve been going to my dentist for fifty years and I’ve never had any trouble with my teeth. Therefore, I have a good dentist.”
But, naturally, this reasoning is flawed. The skill of the dentist might not have anything to do with the outcome. Instead, it might all come down to the patient’s excellent dental hygiene habits.
Similarly, a patient might dislike a doctor because they keep offering them honest advice about how they can improve their health. For example, the doctor might recommend eating vegetables because that’s the best way of preventing heart disease. Medically speaking, that’s excellent advice, but the patient may still not like it.
Ultimately, we can only really make judgments of doctors based on how they make us feel. Knowing that changes how we evaluate them. If we understand that trust is more about the bond that we feel with the doctor than their competence, it changes how we see our relationship with them. Ultimately, we have to trust them to some degree.