A healing patient-physician relationship depends on mutual trust. Patients need to trust that their doctor is working for them. In the Oath of Hippocrates, doctors swear to prescribe “for the good of my patients,” to the best of “my ability and judgment.”
Such a physician does not lie to patients or treat them in a way he believes will harm them. He does not reassure them that it is fine to do something he believes will lead to incurable disease, unhappiness, guilt, or early death.
But what if their physician is working for a hospital and knows that he’ll lose his job or even his entire career if the employer is displeased? And what if the hospital lets insurers, government, or political advocacy groups control the message to patients?
The case of Dr. Paul Church should alarm patients everywhere. Dr. Church just lost his final appeal of his expulsion from Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston.
These days being expelled from any hospital medical staff for any reason can and probably will have a domino effect — loss of privileges at all other hospitals, removal from insurance panels, a report to the National Practitioner Data Bank that could foreclose all future employment opportunities, loss of board certification, and even loss of medical license.
Dr. Church, a urologist, had been on the medical staff for 28 years. Did anyone accuse him of incompetence? Did he throw a scalpel at a nurse? Was he impaired by alcohol or drug abuse? Did he humiliate, discriminate against, or harm anyone in any way? Did he make any statement that the hospital disputed as untrue?
No to all of the above! His record was exemplary.
The hospital clearly wants to make an example of him, to deter anyone else who might dare to act as he did. But not a very public example. There has been almost no news coverage. Usually, when a doctor gets booted from a hospital, the press is all over the story.
People love to read about the comeuppance of a successful doctor. But not this time.
Apparently both BIDMC and the press are themselves afraid — of backlash from the public, in the case of the hospital; or of the anger of a powerful political constituency, in the case of the press.
So what was Dr. Church’s heinous, unmentionable crime?
He told the truth — discreetly, through internal hospital communications channels. A truth that many on the hospital staff agreed with — silently.
He protested the hospital’s pressuring its staff to support Gay Pride events. Uniformed members of BIDMC staff are pictured marching in the Gay Pride parade, along with people promoting sado-masochism, or displaying gear for bondage and domination, or showing children as sex objects.
Dr. Church stated that such hospital policy contradicted its mission to protect the public welfare and to promote healthy, moral choices.
He challenged the hospital to be honest about the unhealthy consequences of homosexual behavior, and “respectful of the diversity of religious and moral views regarding homosexuality.” His quotation of a few verses from the Bible might have ultimately been the unforgivable sin.
Unquestionably, men having sex with men, an activity that even has its own acronym now (MSM), have a much higher incidence of sexually transmitted diseases.
Though AIDS is not the automatic death sentence it once was, infected individuals face a lifetime of costly, toxic drug treatment. The CDC recently reported that homosexual men, lesbians, and bisexuals experience a much higher rate of sexual assault, including rape, by an intimate partner.
Transgenders, vociferously insisting that they be considered normal, are simultaneously demanding insurance coverage for costly treatments, including lifelong hormone therapy.
Can your physician, without fear for his career, tell you the truth about the risks of your behavior? Only if it involves smoking or drug use or something other than sex.
Doctors are supposed to affirm the notion that the only problems facing LGBT patients are caused by societal disapproval. This gag on physicians must be enforced by totalitarian methods because reality is so hard to deny.
And if your physician lies to you about one thing, can you trust him to tell the truth about anything?
Jane M. Orient, M.D. is executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. She also is president of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness, and is the editor of AAPS News, the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness Newsletter, and Civil Defense Perspectives. She is the managing editor of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. She also is the author of "Your Doctor Is Not In: Healthy Skepticism about National Healthcare." For more on Dr. Orient, Go Here Now.
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